Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Orange Blossoms" Honey Cake With Blueberries

Day7 of BM8: I am probably the last one to be posting this.I should have posted this like a couple of days ago. But power outage, wedding anniversary and my Picasa database crash kind of delayed things. Late but never too late. :-). But I saved the best for the last and it is well worth the wait!

This cake is really one of the best tasting cakes I have ever baked. What makes this cake special is the "Orange Blossoms" honey. That divine honey and the succulent blueberries are a truly irresistible combo and I have to thank Zoe Francois of Zoe Bakes for sharing this wonderful recipe at her space. Once I came across this cake recipe, I have been on the hunt for this honey. When I got hold if it, I couldn't wait to give the winning recipe a try! And I didn't have to change a thing about the recipe except for the spice mix-I used all-spice instead of mace powder.This cake is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser! No ifs or buts about it!

So this is the round-up of what I posted for this edition of BM:
The stars of this cake:
Ingredients(For 8-10 Servings):
  • 3 Cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 Sticks Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Cup Orange Blossoms Honey, I used Dutch Gold brand
  • 2 Cups Fresh or Frozen Blueberries
  • 1/4 Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp Baking Powder
  • 2 Tbsp Freshly Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 1 Tbsp All-purpose Flour, to prep the bundt pan and to dust the blueberries
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp Lemon Zest
  • 1/2 tsp All-Spice or Ground Mace or Ground Nutmeg, I used All-spice
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
For the Glaze:
  • 10" Bundt Pan
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Add Honey, Butter and Sugar to a bowl/stand-mixer bowl.
  • Cream them together at medium speed till they are pale yellow in color.
  • Add the eggs one by one to the honey-butter mixture and slowly incorporate.
  • Add the lemon zest and the lemon juice. Stir to combine.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and all-spice in a large wide bowl.Stir in the salt
  • Add the flour mixture in batches and mix only till its combined. Don't over work the mixture.
  • Dust the blueberries with a little flour and fold it into the batter with a silicone spatula.
  • Grease the pan with little butter. Dust it with little flour. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.Level it with the spatula.
  • Bake for about 55 minutes or until the toothpick inserted into center comes clean.
  • Let the cake rest for 5-10 minutes. Flip it into a dish and prick it with a toothpick at several places on the top.
  • Smear the glaze slowly and continue to do so until all of the glaze it absorbed.
  • Let it sit and soak all the wonderful glaze for atleast 4-5 hours. If you refrigerate overnight bring it back to room temperature before serving the cake. The cake tastes best at room temperature.
  • Serve it with a warm cup of tea or coffee.

PS: I wish all my Hindu readers a very Happy Vinayagar Chathurthi. Some dishes made on the auspicious day: Steamed Sweet Dumplings and Sundal.

Steamed Sweet Dumplings -- Kozhukattai/Modak
Sundal: Chickpea Sundal With Raw Mango Chunks and Grated Carrot Sundal: Chickpea Sundal With Lemon Juice, Lemon Zest and a hint of Mint
For this week's "Black and White Wednesday" at Susan's:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Homemade Paneer "Indian Cottage Cheese"

Day6 of BM8: Sorry for the delay guys. No electricity due to hurricane Irene. Electricity came back yesterday afternoon but it was my wedding anniversary so I had to spend some quality time with hubby.

Sunday Early Morning: The Cold Wind Blew and The Leaf fell too..
Hurricane Irene's fury knocked the electricity in our home along with 53% of the homes in my state. It was around 4-ish in the morning when electricity went out..The minute it did, I woke up with a start to the sound of a heavy downpour lashing at my windows followed by winds howling like a pack of extremely angry wolves..The whole house was plunged in darkness until hubby found a Glade scented candle to light up the room and certainly to light up the mood. It was a long time before sleep claimed me into its welcoming arms..

First thing in the morning hubby used his mobile to call "CT light and power" to ask when the electricity will be back. An extremely overworked and disgruntled employee told him not to expect it for a couple of days. Just a couple of days before all this disaster happened,  hubby had stocked the freezer with expensive cuts of lamb, wild salmon and nearly 2 dozen chicken drumsticks and 2 big fat tubs of ice-cream. The fridge was stocked with bread, butter, nearly 3 gallons of milk, atleast 4 different varieties of cheese, condiments and plenty of veggies.

Me and MIL persuaded hubby to go get some ice from the nearby gas station. He looked at us like we were insane. The storm has passed and moved up north but still it was very very windy. Driving out when there was a "state of emergency" was asking for trouble! But he budged and decided to go get some ice bags. Without the electricity the garage door wouldn't lift up. Hubby and FIL had to use their brute force to lift the thing up, take the vehicle out to go get some ice.

We filled up the Igloo pack with 2 packs of ice and quickly moved the meat, fish and poultry into the large cooler. Layered it with another pack of ice and then add the cheese and other stuff. Then set out to make Ghee "Clarified Butter" out of butter, Homemade Yogurt with 1 Gallon of milk,Paneer with another gallon of milk. The last remaining Gallon we decided to use up with Muesli for breakfast and make Pasta Pudding for later..The idea was to not waste anything if at all possible. The stove wouldn't light up and we had to use the matchsticks to light it up.

That night the whole town was steeped in darkness except for a few candles in the windows of my neighbors' homes and occasional traffic passing us by. I was grumbling about how horrible it was and hubby was telling me that for someone who is into Victorian and Regency Romances, I couldn't find the whole situation romantic..LoL.Then I thought to myself, while I find Victorian and Regency era fascinating and constantly dream of myself as an English "rich" duke's daughter, waiting for a handsome, gallant and an equally rich duke to ask for my hands in marriage, I can't very well adapt to a place where there was no electricity!I mean, what would I do if I couldn't blog, browse or update status on Facebook? Impossible! Unimaginable! Unfathomable! LoL.

Meat and other perishables stored in bottom cooler. These cooler saved us major bucks:
Made homemade Ghee"Clarified Butter" before the butter went gooey and bad:
Made Homemade Yogurt from a gallon of milk but this time though it wasn't in a clay pot:
Another Gallon went towards making this lovely Paneer "Indian Cottage Cheese":
  • 1 Gallon/3.78 Liters 2% Milk 
  • Juice of 2 Lemons (2 Tbsp per Liter of milk to curdle the milk)
  • Colander
  • Thick bottomed pan and ladle
  • Large cheese cloth
  • Heavy-weight to firm up the cheese like Poori Press or old-fashioned Tortilla Press
  • Heat the milk in a thick bottomed pan for about 10-12 minutes until its bubbling.
  • Squeeze the juice out of the lemon and discard the seeds.
  • Pour about 7-8 tbsp of lemon into pan with bubbling milk.
  • Within minutes the milk will start to cuddle with cheese curds floating on the top.
  • Line a colander with a wet cheese cloth and strain the curdled milk.Quickly wash the cheese with little cold water to remove the acidity of the lemon juice.
  • Bring the edges of the cheese cloth together and tie the knot and let it hang on a tap. The liquid drips leaving the cheese that is ready to be firmed up in about half an hour or so.
  • Gently press the cheese to form a disc shape inside the cheese cloth.
  • Top it with a heavy-weight. I used a Poori/Tortilla Press and left it for half an hour.
  • Some thirty minutes later the firm Paneer looks like this.
  • Using a sharp serrated knife gently cut them into sticks or cubes and its ready to be used. Store it in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days or freeze for a couple of months.
Saag Paneer:
Paalak Paneer:
Muttar Paneer:
Paneer And Veggie Pilaf:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Banana Blossoms and Lentil Fritters

Day5 of BM8:  Today we had plans.Plans of going to Cape Cod for Whale Watching. All ruined by Hurricane Irene.Now everyone is grounded in the house with nothing much to do rather than talk about the weather and watch TV. I am annoyed! I was so looking forward to seeing those majestic whales.

The Humpback Whales come to Cape Cod around this time to feed and breed. Last year when MIL alone came for a visit we had taken her to Provincetown(all the way to the tip of Cape Cod) and she enjoyed the trip to the fullest. That day alone the sonar detected 33 whales. One whale came up close and I was able to see the inside of its mouth. It was as big as a camping tent! Seeing such a splendid creature up-close was a humbling experience!
This is what we might have seen had we gone to Cape Cod today(picture from last year):
How to clean a Banana Blossom: A banana blossom has a dozens of flappy purplish layers called "bracts" under which there are rows and rows of Banana Blossoms/Banana Flowers which would eventually grow into bananas. You discard the bracts and gently pry the banana blossoms. Keep going until you remove all the flower and you end up with a small spear(the core). The core is edible. Just chop it into tiny chunks and use it along with the Blossoms in making the fritters/curry/soup etc etc. But before that, oil your hands or use a glove before cleaning the flowers.
A single banana blossom looks like the ones in the picture below- The left most picture is the full blossom. The middle one is the edible one and the right most are the inedible portions - Sepal and the Stamen. The one that looks like a matchstick is the "stamen"(anther +  filament) and the translucent plasticky pink-hued portion is a sepal. These two portions MUST be removed cause you can chew them till the cows come home and still they won't disintegrate! Picture inspiration: Viki's Kitchen.
The flowers removed from the bracts:
The flowers minus the inedible portions:
The chopped flowers soaking in buttermilk and water before being used. This soaking step prevents discoloration of the flowers.
How to make Banana Blossoms and Lentil Fritters: Ingredients:
  • 1 Cup(heaped)Bengal Gram, soaked in warm water for 1-2 hours.
  • 1 Cup(packed) Banana Blossoms, chopped
  • 1" Ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2-3 Cloves Garlic
  • 1/4 Cup packed Cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Red Onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 Green Chilies or less/more, finely chopped
  • Salt for taste
  • Corn Oil for deep frying
  • A wok/kadai or dutch oven for deep frying
  • Soak the lentils in water for 1-2 hours.
  • Grind it to a coarse paste with NO/Very Less water along with ginger and garlic.
  • Mix the onion, salt, chilies and cilantro to the ground lentil.
  • Add the chopped Banana Blossoms to the bowl and mix gently.
  • Roll them into 15-16 even balls.
  • Heat the oil in the Wok/Kadai. Flatten the balls to patties and deep fry in oil until they are browned on one side. Gently flip and brown the other side. Takes ~2 minutes per side.
  • Drain the fritters on paper towel.
  • Enjoy with a cup of hot tea or coffee.
Note: If you are a fan of spicy deep-fried delicacies, you may want to give these a shot: