Oct 24, 2010

Matar Paneer

I made this the other night with some left over paneer I had from making palak paneer. Palak paneer is absolutely my favorite Indian dish. It looks absolutely disgusting, like green mush with white cubes...but it's so delicious. I haven't found a palak paneer recipe that I'm absolutely in love with yet, and until then, I won't post it.

Anyway, on to the dish at hand. I made matar paneer because I needed to use up the left over paneer and also because we *HEART* Indian food. I found this recipe from Christie's Corner. This is such an easy dish to make, it came together in less than 30 minutes, which is wonderful when you're exhausted from work. This dish was so yummy, I'm actually excited about the left overs for lunch tomorrow. Here's the recipe.

Matar Paneer
adapted from Christie's corner
Serves 4

1/4 cup canola oil
2 large onions, minced
2 Tbsp garlic, grated
2 Tbsp gingerroot, grated
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Tbsp Garam Masala
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 cup paneer, cubed
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup milk (see note)

1. Heat a non-stick skillet over high. Add oil then onions, and sauté until dark golden brown.

2. Add the garlic and ginger, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 2 minutes.

3. Add the tomato paste and cumin seeds and cook for 30 seconds.

4. Reduce the heat to low, add the garam masala, brown sugar, red pepper flakes, turmeric, and salt, and cook for 5 minutes.

5. Add the paneer and cook another 5 minutes.

6. Add the peas, yogurt and cream. Cook 2 to 4 minutes or until the peas are just cooked.

7. Sprinkled with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.

  • *original recipe calls for 1/4 cup of heavy cream. I ended up using milk to lighten the dish and I didn't think the dish suffered from it.

Oct 12, 2010

My first wedding cake

Here it is!! I promised you a huge baking post and voila. This is by far the most challenging cake I have ever made. It involved months of research and planning, and for a procrastinator like me, that's saying a lot!! I made this cake for my friend's intimate reception at her home and I just wanted it to be perfect. In my head I imagined this beautiful white cake with smooth edges and roses that never wilt. Only I wake up and in the real world, Murphy's law applies.

The bride said she wanted a white cake, and no other instructions were given. Since she was planning to serve Hawaiian food, I thought lilikoi (passion fruit) or guava would be a good filling. I chose lilikoi in the end because I'm not a huge fan of guavas. As for the frosting, I knew I had to make a buttercream in order for it to last the entire reception. I decided to make a swiss buttercream because I don't really like the taste of confectioner's sugar in frosting.

Now comes the shopping! All I have to say is thank goodness for Costco!! I bought eight pounds of butter, 50 eggs, two boxes of cake flour, a 10 pound bag of sugar, and a partridge in a pear tree! It terrified me how quickly I went through the butter, I kept telling myself I should not have even a slice of this cake! haha =)

For the recipes: The lilikoi curd was simple enough. It was a recipe from Martha Stewart and although Martha and I don't always see eye to eye, I've made this recipe before and it's good. The white cake recipe took a little longer to narrow down. In the end, I chose one from Baking Illustrated from the wonderful people at Cook's Illustrated. I didn't have time to test each recipe and just wanted something I could count on. For the buttercream, I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen. I ended up choosing this recipe because Deb used this for a wedding cake that she made and it worked well for her. She also had the recipe scaled for a wedding cake so I didn't have to do any calculations.

All the recipes came out very well. The white cake is delicious! It's buttery without being heavy. It's moist enough on its own that it didn't need any syrup to keep it from drying out. It's a little bit on the sweet side for my Asian palate, but I think overall it was a wonderful recipe. The lilikoi curd was also wonderful. I cut down on the sugar for the recipe. The curd was tart on its own, but with the cake on the sweeter side, it matched very well. As for the buttercream, this was a winner!! As I've said many times before, I'm not a big frosting fan. But this is one of the best buttercreams I've ever tasted. I again cut down on the sugar and it was perfect.

Now, for the hard part!!! Who would've thought a wedding cake involved so much. Before this whole thing, I thought all you had to do was make three cakes and stacked them together..but NOOOOOO! That's not the case at all. You need wooden dowels for support and you need cake rounds for each layer of the cake.

The hardest part was getting the frosting to smooth out. I wonder how the professionals do it. I think I need one of those revolving cake stands. I told myself I would take pictures of each step so you could see how it came together...but after a few pictures, I was so frustrated and tired that I was in no mood to take anymore pictures. In retrospect, I really regretted being so lazy. I did get a picture of the insides for you at the reception.

Now it's over, the bride and groom loved the cake and so did everyone at the reception. I am relieved this project is over...when I came home from the wedding, I didn't know what to do with myself. The last month has been non stop planning and researching..what will I do with all my free time now? Will I ever do this again? I won't say never, but not likely.

p.s. anyone have recipes for egg yolks? I have about 20 egg yolks lying around...maybe I'll start making some ice cream.

Here are the recipes.

Classic White Layer Cake
from Baking Illustrated

Serves 12

CI note: If you have forgotten to bring the milk and egg white mixture to room temperature, set the bottom of the glass measure containing it in a sink of hot water and stir until the mixture feels cool rather than cold, around 65 degrees. Cake layers can be wrapped and stored for one day.

Nonstick cooking spray
2 1/4 cups cake flour (9 ounces), plus more for dusting the pans
1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
6 large egg whites (3/4 cup), at room temperature
2 teaspoons almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar (12 1/5 ounces)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon table salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened but still cool

1. For the Cake: Set oven rack in middle position. (If oven is too small to cook both layers on a single rack, set racks in upper-middle and lower-middle positions.) Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two 9-inch round cake pans with nonstick cooking spray; line the bottoms with parchment or waxed paper rounds. Spray the paper rounds, dust the pans with flour, and invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.

2. Pour milk, egg whites, and extracts into 2-cup glass measure, and mix with fork until blended.

3. Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in bowl of electric mixer at slow speed. Add butter; continue beating at slow speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no powdery streaks remaining.

4. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 cup of milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Stop mixer and scrape sides of bowl. Return mixer to medium (or high) speed and beat 20 seconds longer.

5. Divide batter evenly between two prepared cake pans; using rubber spatula, spread batter to pan walls and smooth tops. Arrange pans at least 3 inches from the oven walls and 3 inches apart. (If oven is small, place pans on separate racks in staggered fashion to allow for air circulation.) Bake until thin skewer or toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 23 to 25 minutes.

6. Let cakes rest in pans for 3 minutes. Loosen from sides of pans with a knife, if necessary, and invert onto wire racks. Reinvert onto additional wire racks. Let cool completely, about 1½ hours.

Lilikoi Curd
from Martha Stewart
Makes 4 cups

1 cups sugar (see note)
1 cup unsweetened passion-fruit puree
12 large egg yolks
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1. Combine sugar, passion-fruit puree, and egg yolks in a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until thick enough to coat back of spoon, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butter, piece by piece, until melted. Cool, cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed, up to three days.

Swiss Buttercream
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

For a wedding cake (or most of one, depending on the size)
2 cups of egg whites (approx. 12 large)
2 1/2$ cups sugar (see note)
5 cups butter, softened (2 1/2 pounds, 10 sticks)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

For a 9-inch cake (plus filling, or some to spare)
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites
26 tablespoons butter, softened (3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the tiniest amount, if you’re just practicing (or enough to cover and fill the 4-inch cake pictured)
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg white
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1. Whisk egg whites and sugar together in a big metal bowl over a pot of simmering water. Whisk occasionally until you can’t feel the sugar granules when you rub the mixture between your fingers.

2. Transfer mixture into the mixer and whip until it turns white and about doubles in size. (Here’s a tip: when you transfer to the mixer, make sure you wipe the condensation off the bottom of the bowl so that no water gets into the egg whites. This can keep them from whipping up properly.)

3. Add the vanilla.

4. Finally, add the butter a stick at a time and whip, whip, whip.

  • *The original recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar with the lilikoi curd. I only used 1 cup of sugar because I wanted the curd to be on the tart side.
  • *The original recipe for the buttercream calls for 3 cups of sugar. I only used 2 1/2 cups of sugar.

Oct 4, 2010

Vietnamese spring rolls

My mom and I both love Vietnamese food. Whenever we go to a pho place, one of us will get pho and the other one will always get bun (Vietnamese vermicelli salad). It's our ritual because we can never decide between those two. I love to get my bun with barbecue pork and spring rolls.

The other night, we decided to attempt bun at home with these Vietnamese spring rolls. This is an excellent recipe for Vietnamese spring rolls and it makes sooo many. I wish I remembered to count how many the recipe makes. You can freeze them and just fry some up when you're in the mood. Here's the recipe for the spring rolls and the yummy dipping sauce.

p.s. for you bakers, I'm sorry for the lack of baking lately....I promise there will be a huge bake next week! =) stay tuned!

Vietnamese Fried Spring Rolls
from Epicurious

For nuoc cham dipping sauce:
5 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce (preferably from Phu Quoc)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar (not seasoned)
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh Thai chiles (2 to 3 inches; preferably red; including seeds), thinly sliced crosswise

1. Make dipping sauce: Stir together sugar and water until sugar is dissolved. Stir in remaining sauce ingredients, then chill, covered, at least 2 hours.

For spring rolls
7 1/2 oz very thin bean thread noodles (in small skeins, also known as cellophane or mung bean noodles*)
2 oz dried wood ear mushrooms
1 medium shallot
2 garlic cloves
2 cups grated carrots (4 to 5 carrots)
1 lb ground pork shoulder
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (preferably from Phu Quoc)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 lb shrimp in shell, peeled and deveined
25 (8-inch) square frozen spring roll pastry wrappers made with wheat flour, thawed
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
About 6 cups vegetable oil

Special equipment: a deep-fat thermometer
Accompaniments: lettuce leaves and fresh mint and cilantro leaves

Prepare filling:
1. Put noodles in a large bowl and cover with hot water by several inches. Soak, pulling noodles apart and stirring occasionally, 10 minutes. Drain noodles and cut into 2- to 3-inch pieces (you should have about 3 cups), then transfer to another large bowl.

2. Put mushrooms in a bowl and cover with hot water by several inches. Soak 15 minutes. Drain and rinse mushrooms thoroughly, then drain again. Trim off and discard any hard parts from mushrooms. Finely chop mushrooms. (You should have about 2 cups.) Add to noodles.

3. Pulse shallot and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped, then add to noodles along with carrots, pork, fish sauce, sugar, pepper, and salt. Pulse shrimp in processor until coarsely ground. (Do not overprocess or it will become pasty.) Add shrimp to noodle mixture. Mix with your hands until well combined. Chill filling, covered with plastic wrap, until cold.

Assemble rolls:
1. Line 2 trays with wax paper.

2. Transfer one fourth of filling to a small bowl and keep remainder chilled, covered.

3. Cut the stack of wrappers diagonally in half to form 2 triangles. Place 1 wrapper on a work surface, keeping remaining wrappers covered with a clean kitchen towel (to prevent them from drying out). With long side of 1 triangle nearest you, put 2 tablespoons filling along middle of long edge of triangle, and shape filling into a thin 5-inch log. Fold left and right corners of wrapper over filling, overlapping slightly and aligning bottom edges. (Wrapper will resemble an open envelope.) Dab top corner with yolk, then roll up wrapper away from you into a long thin roll, making sure ends stay tucked inside.

4. Place on a tray, seam side down. Repeat with remaining triangle. Make more rolls in same manner with remaining wrappers and filling, keeping trays of rolls chilled, loosely covered, until ready to fry.

5. Heat 1 1/2 inches of oil in a 5- to 6-quart pot over moderately high heat until it registers 365°F on thermometer. Fry rolls in batches of 5 or 6, keeping rolls apart during first minute of frying to prevent sticking, until golden brown and cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. (Return oil to 365°F between batches.) Transfer as fried to a colander lined with paper towels and drain rolls upright 2 to 3 minutes. To eat, wrap hot or warm rolls in lettuce leaves and tuck in mint and cilantro leaves. Serve with dipping sauce.

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