Chocolate Valentino – Daring Bakers Challenge

What better to celebrate the month of Love other than with Chocolate? The Daring Bakers did just that, wooing their loved ones or just their taste buds with the sinful sensation of Chocolate!!

This month’s challenge is the “Chocolate Valentino”, a flourless chocolate cake, every bite is divine. We also had to make our own ice-cream to serve with the Chocolate Valentino.

The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef. They have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge.

We were allowed to use semi-sweet, milk, bitter or white chocolates to make the cake. We were also given the liberty to make ice-cream using a recipe of our choice.

Equipment: It is optional to use a heart shaped pan. For a real Valentino, bake it in a heart shaped pan or cut it out into a heart shape. You may use any shape pan that gives you an area of 50” - 6x8 or 7x7. An 8” spring form pan works with great results as do smaller pans or ramekins.

Chocolate Valentino

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

You will need:

16 ounces (1 pound) (454 grams) of semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
½ cup (1 stick) plus 2 tablespoons (146 grams total) of unsalted butter
5 large eggs separated

Put chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl and set over a pan of simmering water (the bottom of the bowl should not touch the water) and melt, stirring often. While your chocolate butter mixture is cooling. Butter your pan and line with a parchment circle then butter the parchment.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and put into two medium/large bowls. Whip the egg whites in a medium/large grease free bowl until stiff peaks are formed (do not over-whip or the cake will be dry). With the same beater beat the egg yolks together.
Add the egg yolks to the cooled chocolate.

Fold in 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture and follow with remaining 2/3rds. Fold until no white remains without deflating the batter. Pour batter into prepared pan, the batter should fill the pan 3/4 of the way full, and bake at 375F/190C

Bake for 25 minutes until an instant read thermometer reads 140F/60C.
Note – If you do not have an instant read thermometer, the top of the cake will look similar to a brownie and a cake tester will appear wet. Cool cake on a rack for 10 minutes then unmold.

I halved the recipe and used a 6” round pan to bake the cake. I used 4oz Semisweet chocolate and 4oz Milk chocolate. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, I made the Valentino.

Home-made Vanilla ice-cream

I don’t own an ice-cream maker and hence chose to make mom’s recipe for Vanilla ice-cream. The only special equipment you will need for this recipe is an electric beater.

You will need:

6 tbsp Milk powder

3 ½ cups Milk

¾ cup Sugar

¼ tbsp Ice-cream Stabilizer

1 tbsp Corn syrup

4 tbsp Powdered sugar

1 ¼ cups Heavy cream

¼ tsp Vanilla extract

Combine the stabilizer with 2tbsp of Sugar and 3 tbsp of Milk, to form a paste, set aside. Mix the milk powder with ½ cup of warm milk. Combine the rest of the milk, stabilizer-milk powder paste and sugar in a medium saucepan. Add the corn syrup. Bring to a boil on medium heat while stirring. Allow to boil for 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool and then stir in the vanilla extract. Pour into a deep wide container and let freeze overnight.

The next day, ‘churn’ the mixture using an electric beater, till smooth. In another bowl, whip the cream with the powdered sugar until thick and forms stiff peaks. Fold this into the ice-cream mixture, till combined. Pour into a container and freeze for 6 hours or overnight.

The ice-cream is ready to serve the next day.

The intense chocolateyness of the cake made a great pair with the smooth creaminess of the ice-cream.

It was exactly a year ago this month that I joined the Daring Bakers. I missed a few challenges last year, and hope not to this year! :)

Another tasty challenge completed.

Onion Rottis/Eerulli Rotti

A.k.a Akki rottis. Not a dish I liked before but now I do, because I know how to make it well and also my tastebuds have become more accommodating, in regards to Eerulli rotti – Onion Rotti. There are many versions of this rotti, but this is how we like it best. If you like Onions, this is the dish for you!

You will need:

2 Cups Rice flour (I use Swad brand, works best)

1 Cup chopped Red onions

2 large carrots, grated

2 tsp Cumin seeds

2 tsp Green chilli paste

Salt to taste

2 tbsp Oil

Warm water, as required

Combine all ingredients except water, in a medium bowl. Slowly stream in warm water and begin to mix dough. Everything should come together and if scooped to one end of the bowl, the dough should hold. That’s the consistency of the dough. Cover and let sit for atleast 2 hours, so that the flavours can come together. The longer the dough sits, the better the taste of the rotti.

Oil a non-stick pan or an alluminium plate (which is stove-top safe).These rottis need to be shaped by hand so don’t heat the pan. Place a small ball of the dough on the pan.Pat into thin rottis, wet fingers as you go so that the patting is easier. Drizzle ¼ tsp of oil on top and place the pan on the stove.

Cover and roast on medium heat. Covering helps cook both sides. When the upper side is done, uncover and roast for another minute or two, this makes the rotti crisp . When done, fold and serve hot with your favourite pickle, ghee and/or plain yoghurt.

To make the next rotti, cool the back of the pan under cold running water and you can immediately pat another rotti on the pan. And if you are using non stick pans, wait till pan cools rather running it under cold water, could make the pan bend.

Caramel Custard

This is my grandpa's (my mom's dad) favourite dessert. He has been Diabetic for a very long time, and is very strict about what he eats. The only 'sweet' stuff he will ever eat is the Caramel Custard. He likes the bitterness from the caramelized sugar and the not so sweetness from the custard.

Grandpa - Thatha but I fondly call him Thathi :D; is always all praises for anyone who can serve him a good tasting Caramel Custard. So when I was in India this time, I gave it a try at mom's place, where grandpa was visiting us from Bangalore. My granny was there too, she preferred to watch us doing this ...and by us I mean my mom, my bro and myself. It did look like too many cooks would spoil the broth, but thankfully it turned out perfect...Thatha's verdict! :)

You will need:

1/4 cup granulated sugar

3 cups milk, boiled and hot

4 beaten eggs

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

Lightly butter 6 custard cups/ porcelain ramekins. Preheat oven to 325 F.

Melt 1/4 cup of sugar in a small heavy pan, stirring constantly, until the sugar turns a golden brown; at this point you can decide if you want the caramel to be sweet or bitter. If you want it to be bitter, then continue heating till the sugar syrup turns a nice amber colour. Pour immediately into prepared custard cups.

Add a small amount of the hot milk to beaten eggs in a slow stream, stirring briskly. Make sure you do this quickly otherwise you will land up with scrambled eggs, we don't want that!!

Now you can add remaining milk; add 1/4 cup sugar and the vanilla, blend well. Pour mixture into custard cups. Set cups in a large, shallow baking pan in the oven. Pour hot water into the large baking pan to a depth of about 1 inch.

Bake for about 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Unmold into shallow dessert dishes or plates with an edge, to serve.

This was easy and a winner, now Grandpa tells his friends that I can make good Caramel Custard too ;)

White Bean Bruschetta with Sun-dried tomatoes and Basil

Bruschetta is classic Italian food and we love it with almost any topping.

I wanted to try a different topping and decided to use White Navy beans with sun- dried tomatoes and fresh basil. The sun-dried tomatoes add a burst of flavour every now and then and the garlic flavoured beans, make this Bruschetta lipsmacking good!

You will need:

1 small baguette, sliced into thick pieces

1 cup canned white beans, drained (reserve liquid)

1 tbsp thinly sliced garlic

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil plus more for drizzling

1 tsp chili flakes (adjust to taste)

8 to 10 basil leaves

1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and sliced 1/4-inch thick

Lemon juice

Salt and black pepper

Parmesan shavings

Preheat oven to 400F.

Place baguette slices on a baking sheet, drizzle lightly with olive oil and set in oven for 4-5 minutes or until the slices are golden brown.

While bread is toasting, in a pan on medium heat, saute the sliced garlic in the olive oil. When it is light golden, add the chili flakes, cook for 10 seconds and then add the basil leaves. This should be done carefully, as the basil may spatter.

Transfer the beans to the pan. Add 1 to 2 tbsp of the canned liquid reserved earlier and mix all together. Adjust consistency, as necessary, with the bean liquid, a little at a time.

When the basil leaves are wilted, remove mixture from the heat. Add the sun-dried tomatoes Toss to combine and adjust the seasoning with lemon juice, to taste, and salt and pepper.

Arrange the toasted bruschetta on a serving platter and drizzle with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil. Top each piece with some of the tomato-bean mixture, then top with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately while still warm.

Home-Made Ginger Garlic Paste

In most Indian cooking, the use of fresh ginger and garlic is indispensable. Either in the fresh whole form or in the paste form, a lot of dishes call for it.

Despite my mom’s constant advice to make my own ginger garlic paste at home, for as long as I can remember I have used only store bought jarred ginger garlic paste. It certainly was not the best (now I know) but still made do with it due to my laziness and long list of excuses why I wasn’t making the paste at home.

One fine day I landed up with a lot of fresh ginger and garlic in my pantry…how did that happen, you ask? Well let’s just say I relied on my memory rather than making a grocery list and decided to buy everything I thought I needed.

After a call to mom, some peeling and chopping and of course whirring, I had fresh Ginger and Garlic paste at home….the aroma was absolutely divine and I simply couldn’t stop sniffing at the paste….it was that good! With every sniff I vowed never to buy jarred paste again….never…naaaha!

I’ve used the paste in a lot of dishes and I must say, when its sautéing in the pan, you can’t wait for the dish to be made and to dig in! I’ll stop chattering now and get on to the recipe….err, well not so much of a recipe actually :)

You will need:

The key is to use equal amounts of fresh Ginger and Garlic…doesn’t matter which unit of measure you use.

100 gms Ginger, peeled and chopped

100 gms Garlic, peeled* and chopped

½ Cup Water (or as required)

1 tbsp Vinegar

* In India, the garlic pods are very small, and peeling the garlic is a tedious job. Mom usually removes the top most layer and gives the garlic a quick wash.She then pats them dry and uses them. Here in the US, peeling garlic is not such a big deal.

Place all of the above ingredients in the bowl of a food processor or in a blender, and blend till smooth to form a thick paste. The Vinegar acts as a preservative and the small amount doesn't alter the fresh taste of the paste.

Store in clean air tight jars in the refrigerator for 3-4 months. Use as required.

The few dishes I use Ginger Garlic paste in:

(Click for recipe)

Rice Dishes:

Jeera Rice

Methi Pulao

Corn & Methi Pulao

Mint Pulao

Vegetable Biryani


Channa curry

Matar Paneer

Alu Methi Dum

Rajma curry

Tomato Dum

Shahi Bell Pepper

Mmmm, all this talk of Ginger and Garlic, I’m off to make another aromatic dish!

Veg. Chili in a Biscuit Bowl

I was very impressed with Paula Deen’s Chili in a Biscuit Bowl recipe when I first saw it on her show. They look so good and easy, that I made them for the Superbowl Party we had at our place with a few friends. Since we don’t eat beef, I made a spicy three bean chili to fill in the biscuit ‘bowls’.

The bowls are super easy to make and when they are done, you are sure to stare at them in awe for a few seconds atleast! :)

You will need:

For the Biscuit Bowls:

Ready to bake refrigerated biscuits, 10 (1 tube)

Muffin tin

Cooking spray

Rolling pin

Preheat oven to 400F (or temperature specified on box)

Invert the muffin tray and spray with cooking spray, set aside.

Remove biscuits from container and lay on a lightly floured surface. Roll each biscuit into a 4 inch circle. If your circle is uneven, don’t worry about it. Place a biscuit circle over the back of each muffin cup.Press around the cup to form a bowl shape. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool slightly. Remove the biscuit bowls and set aside.

For the Chili:

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 jalapeño, seeded, chopped

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1 tsp hot chili powder (adj. to taste)

1 tbsp Cumin powder

2 tbsp chili powder (or other chili powder)

1 cup tomato sauce

4 cups water

1 (15-oz) can black beans, drained

1 (15-oz) can pinto beans, drained

1 (15-oz) can red kidney beans, drained

2 Cups frozen sweet corn, thawed, drained well

Salt and pepper to taste

6 oz Any Mexican cheese blend, shredded

Heat the olive oil in a pan. Add onions and saute until they are translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapeño, oregano, cumin powder, and chili powders. Cook stirring for 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, water, black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, and corn. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, take a potato masher, or spatula, and mash some of the beans against the bottom of the pot. This will thicken the chili. The more you mash the thicker it will become as it cooks. For a medium-thick texture mash about 1/4 of the beans (you can always mash more later). Stir well and simmer for another 10 minutes.

While its still warm, spoon into the biscuit bowls. Garnish with shredded cheese, sour cream (optional) and chopped scallions. Serve immediately.

These were a super hit at the party. The chili was perfectly seasoned, spicy enough to warm us up in this winter.


The first time I had this delectable dessert was at Olive Garden; the first restaurant my husband took me to when I first came to the US…too many firsts eh? :) I am not a big fan of coffee or coffee flavoured stuff, but this one had me hooked from the very first bite.

The name Tiramisu is Italian and means "pull-me-up" (Tirami su), a reference to the effects of the sugar and espresso, and can be translated figuratively as "pick-me-up". Source: Wikipedia

It is typically made with Savoiardi - Italian Ladyfingers, which are light small sponge cakes and layered with Mascarpone, which is an Italian cheese. Mascarpone is pretty expensive so I made a substitute for it, which tastes just as good.

You will need:

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons milk

2/3 cup granulated sugar

2 cups Mascarpone cheese(or substitute, recipe follows)

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream

20-24 ladyfingers

1/2 cup cold espresso

1/4 cup Kahlua

2 teaspoons cocoa powder

Fill a medium pan halfway with water and bring it to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat so that the water is simmering.Whisk egg yolks, milk and sugar together in a medium metal bowl, then place the bowl on top of the pan.

Stir the mixture often for 8 to 10 minutes or until the mixture becomes light yellow and opaque. Remove the bowl from the heat and cool to room temperature. Add the 2 cups of mascarpone cheese and the vanilla to the egg mixture and whisk till its smooth.

In a separate bowl, whip the cream with an electric mixer until thick. Slowly fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone mixture until it's completely incorporated, but don't over mix or it will lose volume and flatten out. Combine the espresso and Kahlua in a large, shallow bowl.

One-by-one, quickly dip each ladyfinger in the espresso or you can arrange the ladyfingers in the dish and brush each ladyfinger with the espresso kahlua mix with the help of a pastry brush. Ladyfingers are very light and quickly absorb any liquid like a sponge, so they may get very soggy if you dip them. I brushed them instead, the flavour was good enough.

Arrange half of the dipped ladyfingers side-by-side on the bottom of an 8 x 8 inch serving dish or baking pan.

Spoon about half of the cheese mixture over the ladyfingers, then add another layer of soaked ladyfingers on top of the cheese mixture. Spoon the remaining cheese mixture over the second layer of ladyfingers and spread it evenly.

Put two teaspoons of cocoa powder in a tight-mesh strainer and gently tap the side of the strainer to add an even dusting of cocoa powder over the top of the dessert.

Cover and chill for several hours. To serve, slice into equal portions with a clean, serrated knife wiping the knife clean, between cuts.

Substitution for Mascarpone:

2 Cups Creme cheese, at room temp

1/3 cup Sour cream

1/4 Heavy whipping cream

Blend all three ingredients till smooth and creamy. Use as required.

The next time you eat at an Italian restaurant, don't forget to make room for dessert and order the Tiramisu. Trust me, you won't regret it! :)

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