Panang curry

This was one of the curries I ordered first at a Thai restaurant. The mild yet distinct flavors bite after bite, had me hooked! Last night I made Panang curry at home using home-made Panang curry paste.

The authentic paste contains Shrimp, which we don’t eat, so made a vegetarian version of the Panang paste and curry.

You will need:

For the Panang paste:
5 Dried Chillies
½ inch piece Galangal, chopped
2 tbsp chopped Lemongrass (the fleshy part)
1 tbsp Toasted Corriander seeds
2 Garlic cloves, minced
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 tbsp skinned peanuts

For the Curry:

1 ¼ cups Coconut Milk
3 tbsp prepared Panang paste
1 tbsp Oil
1 Carrot, cut at an angle
½ cup Broccoli florets
½ cup Green beans
1 Green bell pepper, sliced
1 Onion, sliced
2 tbsp light brown sugar
A handful Thai Basil leaves
1 tbsp Sambal chili paste (if you like it hot)
Salt to taste

1 cup Jasmine rice cooked, to serve

Grind the paste ingredients in a blender using little water until smooth. This is the Panang curry paste.

Heat oil in a pan. Add the curry paste and sauté for a few minutes till fragrant. Now add the coconut milk, salt, brown sugar, and the veggies. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn down heat to low and simmer covered for 10 minutes, until veggies are soft.

Stir in the basil leaves reserving a few for garnish. Adjust seasoning if necessary and serve with a garnish of basil leaves on top.

Piece Montee for the Daring Bakers

This month’s challenge recipe is for a Piece Montée, which means literally “mounted piece.” Also known as – Croquembouche (“crunch in the mouth”). The Piece Montée is the traditional wedding cake here in France. They are often served at baptisms and communions as well.

“The May 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Cat of Little Miss Cupcake. Cat challenged everyone to make a piece montée, or croquembouche, based on recipes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and Nick Malgieri.”

The classic piece montée is a high pyramid/cone made of profiteroles (cream-filled puff pastries) sometimes dipped in chocolate, bound with caramel, and usually decorated with threads of caramel, sugared almonds, chocolate, flowers, or ribbons. Modern pastry chefs have taken to assembling this dessert in all manners of shapes and sizes, and we were allowed to use our creativity.

I had seen the Piece Montee on television several times and have been in awe. I had never imagined I would be making one in my life but the Daring Bakers had me doing it :) I had plans of getting this done way earlier in the month, but we are in the middle of moving houses and time really caught up with me. I realized only yesterday that the posting date was almost here. I had no time to experiment or plan decoration ideas, so I went with the given recipes and came up with this.

Recipe Source & Challenge Requirements: The recipe for this month’s challenge comes from Peter Kump’s Baking School in Manhattan and was originally created by famed pastry chef, Nick Malgieri. Please note you must make your own pate a choux (puff pastry) and crème patissiere. And your piece montée needs to be a mounted structure with some height to it.

Variations allowed: I am providing the recipes for 3 variations on the crème patissiere: vanilla, coffee and chocolate but please feel free to flavor your crème patissiere in any flavor of your choosing or a mix of different flavors. You may use either a chocolate glaze or caramel or both (recipes provided) to build your piece montée. You must use the recipe provided for the the pate a choux batter however. As for the structure, feel free to be creative as you want – but it must be a “mounted piece” meaning that it has some height; you may decorate it with any objects you desire.

Preparation time: You will want to use your puff pastry batter and chocolate glaze or caramel as soon as it has been prepared and as close to serving time as possible. This is not a dessert that stores well and it may be a bit temperamental in humid areas as the glaze needs to harden to hold the choux together. The crème patissiere can be made a couple of days in advance and stored in the fridge until ready to use.

You will need approximately 10 minutes to prepare the puff pastry, 10 minutes to pipe and about 30 minutes to bake each batch. The crème patissiere should take about 10 minutes to cook and then will need to be cooled for at least 6 hours or overnight. The glazes take about 10 minutes to prepare.

Equipment required:
• several baking sheets
• parchment paper
• a whisk
• a pastry brush (for the egg wash)
• a pastry bag and tip (a plain tip or no tip is best for piping the puff pastry; you can use a plain or star tip to fill the puff pastry with the cream)
• a flat surface such as a baking sheet or cake board/stand on which to assemble your piece montée
• some of the items you may want to use to decorate your piece montée include ribbons, Jordan almonds, fresh flowers, sugar cookie cut-outs, chocolates, etc.

For my piece montee I used the vanilla crème patissiere and the hard candy glaze to build it.

For the Vanilla Crème Patissiere (Half Batch)
1 cup (225 ml.) whole milk
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
6 Tbsp. (100 g.) sugar
1 large egg
2 large egg yolks
2 Tbsp. (30 g.) unsalted butter
1 Tsp. Vanilla

Dissolve cornstarch in ¼ cup of milk. Combine the remaining milk with the sugar in a saucepan; bring to boil; remove from heat.

Beat the whole egg, then the yolks into the cornstarch mixture. Pour 1/3 of boiling milk into the egg mixture, whisking constantly so that the eggs do not begin to cook.

Return the remaining milk to boil. Pour in the hot egg mixture in a stream, continuing whisking. Continue whisking (this is important – you do not want the eggs to solidify/cook) until the cream thickens and comes to a boil. Remove from heat and beat in the butter and vanilla. Pour cream into a stainless steel/ceramic bowl. Press plastic wrap firmly against the surface. Chill immediately and until ready to use.

Pate a Choux (Yield: About 28)
¾ cup (175 ml.) water
6 Tbsp. (85 g.) unsalted butter
¼ Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 cup (125 g.) all-purpose flour
4 large eggs

For Egg Wash: 1 egg and pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 425◦F/220◦C degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Preparing batter:
Combine water, butter, salt and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally. At boil, remove from heat and sift in the flour, stirring to combine completely.
Return to heat and cook, stirring constantly until the batter dries slightly and begins to pull away from the sides of the pan.

Transfer to a bowl and stir with a wooden spoon 1 minute to cool slightly. Add 1 egg. The batter will appear loose and shiny. As you stir, the batter will become dry-looking like lightly buttered mashed potatoes. It is at this point that you will add in the next egg. Repeat until you have incorporated all the eggs.

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a large open tip (I piped directly from the bag opening without a tip). Pipe choux about 1 inch-part in the baking sheets. Choux should be about 1 inch high about 1 inch wide.

Using a clean finger dipped in hot water, gently press down on any tips that have formed on the top of choux when piping. You want them to retain their ball shape, but be smoothly curved on top.

Brush tops with egg wash.

Bake the choux at 425◦F/220◦C degrees until well-puffed and turning lightly golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Lower the temperature to 350◦F/180◦C degrees and continue baking until well-colored and dry, about 20 minutes more. Remove to a rack and cool.
Can be stored in a airtight box overnight.

When you are ready to assemble your piece montée, using a plain pastry tip, pierce the bottom of each choux. Fill the choux with pastry cream using either the same tip or a star tip, and place on a paper-lined sheet. Choux can be refrigerated briefly at this point while you make your glaze.

Use one of these to top your choux and assemble your piece montée.

Chocolate Glaze:
8 ounces/200 g. finely chopped chocolate (use the finest quality you can afford as the taste will be quite pronounced; I recommend semi-sweet)
Melt chocolate in microwave or double boiler. Stir at regular intervals to avoid burning. Use the best quality chocolate you can afford. Use immediately.

Assembly of your Piece Montée:
You may want to lay out your unfilled, unglazed choux in a practice design to get a feel for how to assemble the final dessert. For example, if making a conical shape, trace a circle (no bigger than 8 inches) on a piece of parchment to use as a pattern. Then take some of the larger choux and assemble them in the circle for the bottom layer. Practice seeing which pieces fit together best.

Once you are ready to assemble your piece montée, dip the top of each choux in your glaze (careful it may be still hot!), and start assembling on your cake board/plate/sheet. Continue dipping and adding choux in levels using the glaze to hold them together as you build up.

When you have finished the design of your piece montée, you may drizzle with remaining glaze or use ribbons, sugar cookie cut-outs, almonds, flowers, etc. to decorate.

The candy glaze is a little darker, which made it slightly bitter. This actually offset the very sweet cream filling. All the textures and flavors came together beautifully. Thanks Cat for a lovely challenge! I hope to try it again with more time on hand and play with the variations.

Five-Layered Burritos

A Burrito is typically a flour, corn or wheat tortilla rolled with various fillings inside – black beans, refried beans, grilled or sautéed vegetables, cheese, salsa, lettuce,guacamole and/or meat. This afternoon I was in the mood for some Mexican flavors and made myself a five layered burrito with the ingredients I had on hand. Healthy and packed with flavor, these burritos got me through a very productive afternoon.

The five layers – Cilantro Rice, Sauteed Onions and Peppers, Fresh Tomatoes, Spicy Black beans and Corn and topped with Mexican blend cheese.

You will need:

2 tsp Vegetable Oil
1 medium green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
½ fresh Jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup Black beans – from a can rinsed and drained
½ cup Whole kernel corn – from a can, drained
2 tsp Hot sauce (Tabasco)
1 tsp Cumin powder
1 fresh Tomato, chopped
½ cup white rice, cooked and cooled
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
Salt to taste
¼ cup shredded Mexican blend cheese
2 (10-inch) Whole wheat tortillas

Salsa and sour cream (optional) for serving

I made three of the layers using the same pan. Less time for clean up.

Heat oil in a pan. Add the chopped jalapeno, onions and peppers. Saute till veggies are almost done, with a slight crunch. Transfer to a bowl. In the same pan add the cooked rice and chopped cilantro. The rice picks up the flavors of the veggies from the pan. Cook till the rice is heated through, season with salt and transfer to another bowl.

Return pan to heat, add the drained black beans and corn along with the cumin powder and hot sauce. Stir to combine and cook on medium heat until the liquid is evaporated and the beans are coated, about 3-4 minutes. Season with salt. Turn off heat and let beans cool slightly.

Assemble the burrito: Warm the tortillas in the microwave or on a pan until soft and pliable. Spread a few tablespoons of rice in the centre of the tortilla. Top with the sautéed veggies, beans and corn, fresh chopped tomatoes and lastly the cheese. Starting with the end towards you, fold tortilla over the fillings and roll tightly to form a burrito. Slice in half and serve with salsa or a dollop of sour cream.

Fruit Cake -- Round Two

I was on the phone with mom this morning and she was busy baking a Fruit Cake for her cake class the next day. Due to the constant power cuts in the summer, she has a hard time getting all the cakes baked during class in the morning. So she bakes them once the power is back later in the evening and then lets her students take the cakes home when they come in for class next day. All the talk about cakes and particularly fruit cake really had me craving for some. I took the recipe from her right away and baked a Fruit Cake.

I have made a Fruit Cake before, but that is a dense richer version. Mom’s Fruit cake is much lighter and just as tasty.

You will need:

1 1/2 Cups All purpose Flour
1 1/2 Cups Powdered Sugar
1 Cup (2 sticks) Unsalted butter at room temp
3 large Eggs
½ tsp Vanilla extract
1 tsp Baking Powder
2 tsp Instant coffee (Bru/ Nescafe)
¼ cup whole Milk
½ cup Tutti Frutti
½ cup Dry (or Glazed) Cherries, chopped
1 tbsp Orange Zest
½ cup Cashews, chopped
½ cup Rum
1 tsp Ground cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Nutmeg
½ tsp Ground Clove
¼ tsp Ground Cardamom

Preheat oven to 300F. Grease and flour a loaf pan.

Combine tutti frutti, orange zest, chopped cashews and cherries in a medium bowl. Add the spices and rum. Mix well and let soak overnight.

Cream the butter and sugar for 3 minutes on medium speed until smooth. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, with the vanilla extract until eggs are frothy. Add this to the creamed butter and combine.

Combine instant coffee in the warm milk and set aside. Sieve flour with baking powder. Add soaked fruits to the flour to coat well. This is to prevent the fruits and nuts from sinking to the bottom while baking. Now add this mixture to the wet ingredients. Slowly add the coffee and mix until combined.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 60-90 minutes until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

Let cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Traditionally Fruit cakes are soaked in additional rum or brandy to enhance the richness of the cake. You can do the same or just go ahead and eat a slice the way it is.

Recipe to oven to the table-- all in a day's work! :) Ahh, the bliss of baking. Have a great weekend everybody!

Dill & Mint Pulao

I had my hands full this past weekend working on a Dragon Theme cake for a friend's dear daughter for her 4th birthday. The little girl was super excited that her aunty had baked her a cake. We went to her party too on Saturday and stayed on till late evening. It was a lazy Sunday and I wanted to be in and out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. One pot meals always come to the rescue at such times, and somehow feel like less hard work..well this one really is though.

I had both fresh Dill and Mint on hand so I made Dill & Mint Pulao. Both these herbs compliment each other flavorwise.

You will need:

1 cup Basmati rice, washed and soaked in water for 10 mins
1 ½ cups Water
3 tbsp Oil
3 Cloves
2 Cardamom pods
1” pc Cinnamon stick
2 Bay leaves
1 Onion thinly sliced
¼ cup Frozen Peas
½ cup chopped fresh Dill
½ cup chopped fresh Mint
1 Tomato chopped
1 tsp fresh Lemon juice
Grind to a paste:
4 Green chillies
2 cloves Garlic
1” pc Ginger
2 tbsp Chopped Cilantro

Heat the oil in a pressure cooker. Add the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and cardamom pods. Saute for a few seconds, meanwhile prepare the paste. Add the sliced onions and sauté till done. Now add the prepared paste and sauté till fragrant, about a minute. Now add the frozen peas, chopped tomato, dill and mint. Cook for a few minutes till the tomatoes are soft and the herbs are aromatic.

Add water and close cooker lid, and wait for pressure to rise. Once it does, open lid, add drained basmati rice, salt and lemon juice. Stir and close lid, turn heat to high. When the steam rises again, place weight on lid, lower heat and cook for 8 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool slightly before opening the cooker.

Serve with a cool cucumber raita.

Tomato Garlic Rasam

After a week of sweltering heat, the rains are here. We woke up to a rainy Monday morning, not the ideal of weathers to start the week with. I already knew what I was making for lunch, something aromatic and flavorful to beat the blues.

This is a simple rasam and a quick fix to wake up sleeping taste buds. Tomatoes are traditionally boiled when making rasam, but in this recipe I sauté it which gives it a slightly different texture, not too mushy, not too firm. The sautéed garlic adds a ton of flavor too. And the best part, it’s all done in one pot.

You will need:

2 tsp Oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
½ tsp Cumin seeds
5-6 Curry leaves
¼ tsp Asafetida
½ tsp Turmeric
2 large tomatoes chopped
4 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp Tamarind paste
1 tsp Powdered Jaggery
Salt to taste
3 cups Water
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a deep pan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. When it splutters add the curry leaves, asafetida and turmeric. Saute for a few seconds and then add the chopped garlic. Cook for a minute or two till garlic is fragrant and is slightly brown, taking care not to burn. Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the water, tamarind paste and jaggery. Season with salt and bring to a boil on high heat. Once it reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off heat and garnish with cilantro.

Just the aroma of the garlic will have you craving to taste this right away…take my word! :)

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