Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Swirling in Chocolate

March starts a string of celebrations in my house. Some of the nearest and dearest people in my life, like my dad and sister, are March babies. And I found myself a March born husband, who grew a year older wiser last week =). My usual self would've cooked him a nice meal on his birthday and rushed to the bakery for a cake. Make that chocolate cake for the chocolate lover. But I was in a particularly adventurous mood this time and decided to bake a cake myself - a cheesecake - with chocolate swirls - and chocolate decorations!

Modern art =)

I went through several recipes of chocolate cakes online and finally settled on one on the back of Philadelphia cream cheese packet in my fridge! Sometimes you find inspiration in the most unexpected places.  The recipe only listed out the steps without going into details. So I got some tips from none other than David Overton:
  • Line your baking pan with parchment paper to get the cake out easily. You can also use aluminum foil.
  • Use water bath to get that smooth, creamy texture - although I got lazy and baked mine without one.
  • Turn the oven to high only for a short while and then turn it down to finish. Since my cake was made out of only one packet of cream cheese, I kept the beginning temperature at 350F. It was just right for the size of my cake.
  • Be patient and let the cheesecake cool for at least 4 hours. Trust me, I can get impatient, but this cake tasted a whole lot better the next day. 
Instead of the usual graham crackers for crust, I used Anna's Almond Thins. They so flavorful on their own that the crust didn't require any other spices. I had to add some chocolate to the cake. The idea of swirling some dark chocolate seemed better than adding it to the entire batter. It made the cake look much prettier as well. The only negative about the swirls was, the cake let off some steam through those swirls and ended up cracking it a little bit. Maybe a water bath would've prevented it from cracking. But the cake came out intact and the texture wasn't affected at all.

Chocolate decorations - simple embellishment! 
Cheesecake seemed like the perfect base to stick some chocolate decorations I had recently learned to make from Jean-Pierre Wybauw's book 'chocolate'. Cover a flat sheet/pan/dish with some sugar, put some melted baking chocolate in piping bag and pipe the design you like. Keep it in the fridge to cool for 20 mins or until the chocolate hardens completely. As simple as that. The chocolate shapes come out pretty glistening with sugar granules.

Happy Birthday, dear hubby!
Chocolate Swirl Cheesecake 

1 Dozen almond crackers
2 Tablespoons butter - melted

1 Pack (8oz.) cream cheese
1/3 Cup sugar
2 Tablespoons sour cream
1/2 Teaspoon vanilla
2 Teaspoons Bailey's
1 Egg
1 Oz baking chocolate

Preheat oven at 350 degree F.
Line your baking pan (bottom and sides) with parchment paper or aluminum foil .

  • Crush almond crackers in the food processor and mix with 2 tbsp melted butter. You can use more crackers depending on how thick you like the crust.
  • Press this mixture at the bottom of the pan using spatula or a glass. Keep pan in the freezer until you work on the filling.
  • Combine the cream cheese, sugar, sour cream, vanilla and bailey's (optional) and beat until smooth and well blended. 
  • Break egg in a separate bowl and whisk it quickly with a fork. Beat the egg with the cream cheese mixture only until it's well incorporated. Do not over beat. 
  • Pull out the baking pan from the fridge and pour the mixture into it.
  • Melt chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time until it's completely melted. To make swirls, pour chocolate thinly over the filling making zig-zag shapes or circles. Take a toothpick or a  skewer and start swirling the chocolate around gently. Don't muddle the shapes.
  • Once you have a pretty looking design, bake the cake at 350 degrees for 15 mins and then turn the temperature down to 250 and bake for another 30 mins or until the filling is set.  
  • Let the cake cool and then refrigerate for 4 hours minimum until you serve. 

Hubby was very happy with the surprise cake and couldn't get enough of it. He said he won't need to go to the Cheesecake Factory again!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Holi Hai Bhai Holi Hai!

Hello everyone!! Hope you all had a great Holi! As I mentioned last year, the celebration doesn't end for us until 5 days after. So if you haven't played color to your heart's content, do so until you can't rub the it off your face.

I've been completely MIA in the blogosphere for a very long time now. Sometimes life throws things at you and you need to take care of one thing at a time. That is what's been happening with me lately. But you didn't think I had abandoned my blog, did you?? I certainly missed out on many events in the last 2.5 months. Most important of all, my blog's one year b'day! I'm so thankful to all the wonderful readers and fellow bloggers I've had the fortune of 'meeting'. It's been long - but what better occasion than Holi to get back in action? This festival announces the onset of spring and brings new colors and new hopes to our lives. It has certainly renewed my enthusiasm and I'm bringing you a recipe for a very colorful dish.

I had bookmarked Sanjeev Kapoor's recipe for Shaam-Savera a while ago, and I finally had a chance to make it. They say you eat with your eyes first. This recipe for palak-paneer koftas in a rich, creamy tomato sauce is a perfect example of how beautiful and colorful a dish can be. My version of the dish is somewhat simplified - mainly the koftas, which I made with rice flour. I love using rice flour in koftas/fritters since it makes them light and crispy. The other advantage of rice flour over corn flour is it doesn't get chewy after sitting for some time. The gravy recipe is pretty standard. A couple of changes I made were adding onion paste and some more whole spices for full bodied flavor. I had run out of heavy cream so I ended up making a paste out of some cashews. It made for a perfect substitute, adding creaminess and sweetness to the dish.

Shaam Savera: Palak-Paneer Kofta in Rich Tomato Gravy

1 Bunch fresh spinach
1 Cup rice flour (use as needed)
2 Teaspoons cumin-coriander powder
2 Teaspoons red chili powder (adjust spices per your liking)
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

1 Can (6 oz) tomato paste or 4-5 tomatoes finely chopped
1 Tbsp butter
3-4 Garlic cloves crushed and finely chopped
1/2 Small onion - paste or finely chopped (optional)
Khada Masala/Whole spices (3-4 cardamom cloves, 1 bay leaf, 1 inch cinnamon stick)
1 Teaspoon cumin-coriander powder
1 Teaspoon red powder (or to taste)
Salt to taste
Heavy cream/Cashew paste 

To make koftas: 

  • Clean spinach leaves and blanch in hot water for 2-3 minutes until soft. Drain well and chop finely. 
  • Add cumin-coriander powder, red chili powder and salt to chopped spinach and then start adding rice flour little by little until you have just enough to bind spinach together. 
  • Cut paneer into 3/4 inch cubes or, like I did, make small rounds with a melon baller! 
  • Take spinach mixture a little less than a golf-ball size, place a ball/cube of paneer at the center and make round koftas. Fry them until koftas are golden brown on the outside. 

  • Heat a wok on medium and add butter. Butter can overheat easily so don't keep the stove on high. 
  • Add the whole spices. Once they are fragrant (20-30 secs), add garlic paste and onion paste and slow roast until golden brown. 
  • I used tomato paste instead of fresh tomatoes for this recipe since it is much smoother. Add tomato paste, Garam masala, red chili powder and salt to taste and cook for 10-15 mins until all the flavors come together. Add some water if the gravy starts getting too thick.  
  • Once cooked, turn the heat to low and add 1/4 cup (or more if you like) heavy cream. Cook for 5 more mins and turn the heat off. Or to make cashew paste, simply soak them in warm water for 5 mins and grind to paste.
Now to put it all together, serve the gravy in a rather flat serving bowl. Cut koftas in half and place them on the gravy. Serve with some roti, naan or jeera rice.

Submitting this recipe to the Know Your Dairy event hosted by Motions and Emotions for Jagruti's Know Your series.


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