April 25, 2011

Somewhere over the rainbow

I don’t know one single girl who hasn’t been fascinated by rainbows since she was a child…you remember ‘My Little Pony’? It used to be my most favourite set of dolls to play with, Barbie and Ken most often bagging the award for ‘Most Overrated Doll.’ So yeah where was I? My Little Ponies usually came in all colours of the rainbow and had adorable names like Cotton Candy and the like.

While cleaning out the attic recently, I rediscovered my old bag of forgotten treasures, everything I used to cherish and love as a kid (I even found an empty pack of Phantom Sweet Cigarettes BTW!) and much to my surprise, my adorable ponies and glowworms were intact. They now occupy pride of place in my cupboard.

A very, very dear friend’s baby girl is turning one this Thursday and Zuzu baby (her real name is Zoya) loves these dolls as much as I do. Now apart from getting her a couple of these as a birthday gift (yes, there is an elaborate party planned, replete with a Jungle theme), I plan on making some rainbow coloured cupcakes for her birthday. While it may not be a patch on the delicious “Ten kg Chocolate Fantasy Photoprint Cake” that The French Loaf is making for her (It’s got an adorable print of ‘The Lion King’ on it and my god, the cake is to die for!) , I have decided to give it a shot anyway…  

You will need:
·         175g butter
·         175g granulated sugar
·         175g plain flour, sifted
·         3 eggs
·         1 tsp baking powder
·         1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
·         1 lemon, juiced and zested
·         Food colouring in red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple

For the frosting:
·         100g cream cheese
·         30g butter
·         400g icing sugar, sifted
·         Hundreds and thousands to decorate

METHOD: Make the cake mixture following whatever method you normally use. I recommend, as always, the all-in-one; place the eggs, sugar, butter and flour (all at room temperature) in a large bowl, along with the baking powder and bicarb, and mix using an electric hand whisk until combined. Add the lemon juice and zest, and mix again. Divide this mixture equally into 6 bowls and tint each a different colour of the rainbow.

Line a 12-bun muffin tin with paper wrappers, and add a teaspoon of each colour to each liner in reverse rainbow order. That's purple, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. (Clarity is important in recipes, after all.) Bake for about 20 minutes at 180°C, until a toothpick inserted into the centre of one of the cakes comes out clean. Cool on a rack. DO NOT COOL IN THE TIN unless you want soggy cupcakes.

Make the icing: mix the softened butter with the cream cheese, and then add the sugar. You might not need it all - stop at the consistency you like. I like it thick and shiny, so add it all. Use the icing to frost the cakes - a palate knife makes pretty swirls. Finish with hundreds and thousands, and remember: less is more. You want the cupcakes to look sweet and innocent, so that the rainbow is a surprise.

April 20, 2011

Summer classics

Continuing my series of all things summer, I have decided to make something summery, light and tasty all through this scorching season. Now, all of us love ice cream … don’t we? Ice-cream to me is comfort food – it’s something I eat when I’m down, when I’m happy, when I’m nervous, when I want to share, when I want to celebrate or when I’m just plain bored.

But I have a problem…my problem is that I don’t much care for most of the brands that are available at the department store nowadays, well maybe with the odd exception of a Ben N’ Jerry’s, Hagendaaz or Movenpick. Unfortunately, these are proving to be way too expensive on the pocket and let’s face it – I already feel bad about piling on the pounds, I shouldn’t be paying Rs 800 a litre to aid the effort now should I?

So after much dilly-dallying and whining, I decided to make ice-cream at home instead. Now the first batch came out okay, but the second one was a complete disaster. Why? Well, cos I don’t have an ice cream maker at home and the lack of one results in ice crystals in the ice cream, which to me is a complete no-no.
Down, but not out, I decided to pore over my recipe books to find an alternative and voila! I found my substitute…I’m now the Queen of Semifreddo and not only is this frozen dessert as gorgeous as any ice cream or gelato you have tasted, it’s also extremely easy and hardly requires any effort. Here’s what I made yesterday:

Caramel Semifreddo with praline

·         100g caster sugar
·         1/2 tsp salt

·         100g caster sugar
·         50ml water
·         50g salted butter chopped
·         1 tsp salt
·         150ml milk
·         2 egg yolks
·         50g caster sugar
·         1 tsp vanilla extract
·         350ml thickened cream


For the praline
Pour the sugar in a even layer in a heavy based saucepan (not anything black as you’ll need to see the colour). Line a baking tray with baking paper that’s lightly greased. Over a medium fire, heat the sugar until the edges being to melt and it’s slightly brown. Using a silicone spatula, gently stir the melted sugar, scraping the botton and edges, into the centre. Stir until sugar has dissolved. Any lumps or clumps will eventually melt into the caramel. Stir occasionally until the caramel starts to smoke and is a deep amber colour. This is where you need to work fast to prevent the caramel from burning. Immediately stir in the salt (take no more than a split second) then without hesitation, quickly pour the caramel onto baking tray. Lift up the baking tray straight away, tilt, and swirl so the caramel will spread over the tray to make as thin of a layer as you can. Set aside to cool and set.

For the semifreddo
Crush the sheet of praline into small chunks. You can use a mortar and pestle or break it into shards, pop into a plastic bag and bash it with a mallet or rolling pin. Set the crushed praline aside. Combine the 100g sugar and 50ml water in a heavy based saucepan over a medium heat and stir until sugar has dissolved. Brush sugar crystals off the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush then cook until a deep amber colour (around 8-10 minutes). Meanwhile whisk egg yolks with the 50g sugar and vanilla  until pale, fluffy and thickened (about 6 minutes with a powerful electric hand mixer). Set aside.

When caramel is the right colour, add the butter and salt and stir to combine (be careful of the splitting!). Add the milk and stir until mixed. While whisking the yolk mixture continuously, slowly and steadily pour the caramel in a thin stream until it’s all incorporated. Continue whisking for another five minutes to cool the mixture down. Alternative submerge the bowl in an ice and water bath until it has come to room temperature then refrigerate until cold. When it has cooled, whip the cream until soft peaks and gently fold with the crushed praline into the cooled yolk mixture. Pour into your container, cover loosely with cling wrap and freeze for at least 6 hours or overnight. You’ll probably have to let it sit out of the freezer for 5 minutes for it to be soft enough to scoop into and serve.

April 2, 2011

My cup brimmeth over

So today is the big day eh? The expectations of a billion people, of a cricket-crazy nation ride on the some young, some not so young, some fit, some not so fit, but devastatingly talented Indian team.  As tension reaches a feverish pitch (yes, pun intended) and Indians all over are set to Bleed Blue (yours truly notwithstanding) I have my own predictions for today’s big game.

The key players according to me will be three of our finest, in-form men, who according to me have the ability to change the face of the game. Based on their personality, style of batting/bowling, I have decided what cocktail best represents them…and yes, I will be drinking these in abundance.

Here’s my pick:

Sachin Tendulkar: The baap of cricket, the man that Brian Lara wants his son to be, the man Barack Obama wants to watch in action and the man who has every Indian swooning with his clean, classy yet explosive style. For him, it’s gotta be the Caprioska, with its clean and crisp flavour.

·         Whole, quartered lime
·         Teaspoon brown sugar
·         35ml vodka
·         Lots Crushed ice
·         Some soda water

Instructions: Slice lime, muddle with sugar your chosen glass. Fill glass with crushed ice and pour on the vodka, top up with Soda water, gently mix and then serve. Try adding some blueberries, strawberries or other fruit in to the muddle for an extra twist.

Yuvraj Singh: A lot has been said about his level of fitness, whether or not he deserves a place in the side but Yuvi has proved them wrong and how. Clearly, the man can bat…but what has surprised many is his prowess with the ball. Both on and off the field, quite a strong, heady mix, he is best complemented with a highball drink like Long Island Ice Tea…sure to knock your socks off!

Long Island Iced Tea

·         1 part vodka
·         1 part 1800® Tequila
·         1 part rum
·         1 part gin
·         1 part triple sec
·         1 1/2 parts sweet and sour mix
·         1 splash Cola

Instructions: Mix ingredients together over ice in a glass. Pour into a shaker and give one brisk shake. Pour back into the glass and make sure there is a touch of fizz at the top. Garnish with lemon.

Suresh Raina: Our captain cool should learn a trick or two out from this young man. Always a picture of calm, I personally believe it is he who won the game for India during the last match. His cool demeanour has me likening him to something that had crushed ice, but is potent at the same time…so what better than a frozen margarita?

Frozen Margarita
2 tsp coarse salt
1 lime wedge
3 oz white tequila
1 oz triple sec
2 oz lime juice
1 cup crushed ice

Instructions: Place salt in a saucer. Rub rim of a cocktail glass with lime wedge and dip glass into salt to coat rim thoroughly, reserve lime. Pour tequila, triple sec, lime juice, and crushed ice into a blender. Blend well at high speed. Pour into a cocktail glass.