A genuine problem faced across the culinary world is the conversion aspect. We love to try out recipes from various parts of the world..but a look at the recipe and there you go again...pounds, ounces, grams, cups...Gosh! that looks complicated...Lets try the recipe some other time....

Tired of this..one day I went to the local market and got myself a kitchen weighing machine with a maximum capacity of 5 kgs. If you don't have one already, try and get one here..trust me its quite something!!! The weighing machine helped me to have a common platform to work on..GRAMS/KILOGRAMS! I always prefer to convert the recipe to grams because that way I cannot go wrong with the measurement. When measuring using cups, there is always a possibility to "add more" or "add less" than what the actual recipe calls for. For example, when a recipe calls for 1 cup of flour, we don't know whether it should be 1 leveled cup or 1 heaped cup. Adding more or adding less, drastically changes the end result of product in its texture and taste.

Now that I had a kitchen weighing machine, the next thing I needed was to convert the recipe to my desired platform...Honestly, there are lots of conversion sites available when you google it..however, not every conversion site gives you the appropriate information.

One site that I have always referred back is Diana's Desserts. Diana is a wonderful baker and her site has a beautiful collection of Bakes and Desserts. One of the sections in her website is called Conversion Calculator. I visit here often and I haven't seen a better conversion site than this one. It has everything that we need while baking or cooking. Its very user friendly and conversions for weight, volume, butter, length, oven and grams to cup conversion. What I love the most is the butter conversion to "stick". I was so unaware of this "stick" concept when I started baking a few months back. But Diana's Desserts solved my first problem. The site has lots of useful information...Have a look!!!

Another problem that we all face is substitutes for ingredients. I had a tough time until I found this interesting section in allrecipes.com. This section is called Common Substitutions where they have an ingredient wise table and gives you the exact measurements of substitutes. I find this very useful and handy when I run out of ingredients or I don't want to include an ingredient such as brandy or egg.

Most of you, by now, must have started to think that I'm the newly appointed Marketing Head for the above sites, but let me assure you..this post is just an attempt to help many others who have faced similar situations like me. I hope the Conversion Calculator and Common Substitutions sites help you as much as they have helped me in all my kitchen endeavours :-)

Happy Experimenting!!!
Guess what…I had a new guest over this weekend…my mom!!! She came over on her way back from Kerala, just for 3 days..too short…I know..but I’m happy she came.. This was the first time she was visiting us, since we relocated to Blr…and I was equally excited as was my son. Oh! He was going to get a Spiderman games CD she had promised over the phone… I decided to surprise her with a nice cake..and something special it had to be.. Eureka!!! Let’s wear on the experimenting hat!!!

I’ve been on an experimentation mode for some time now.. and my blog is raining bakes from the start of the new year… Someone asked me the other day, is it the theme of the month or something… Ofcourse not!!!…but I will admit, I’m really getting passionate about baking. I’m getting better..but I’m yet to reach up there…I’ve drooled at some of the awesome bakes by some of my fellow bloggers and wondered is it really possible to get that perfection? Yes ofcourse, but only if you persistently try out new recipes, and don’t get bogged down by the response its going to get…Ahem..I’m being very optimistic here..

Like I said, the moment I wear the experimenting hat…ideas start pouring in.. I was thinking of making an orange cake.. but the last time I made it..during Christmas, it was quite simple..I had made it to serve for a small Christmas party I hosted at home.. But remember mom’s coming over..and it has to be special.. so I decided to add walnuts to the simple orange cake..and wow this could also be the time to experiment on a Ganache frosting..what say??? So Walnut and Orange Cake with Ganache Frosting it had to be…:-) It doesn’t take long to think…does it??


I had all the ingredients handy except oranges…so I decided to use an Orange Marmalade preserve instead. Since I was experimenting, the safest bet was to make a sponge cake.. Very simply put, its all ingredients measured out in the same proportion, in this case 150 gms. Since I was using an orange marmalade preserve which already has a lot of sugar, plus the chocolate ganache would also add to the sweetness…so I decided to weigh down the sugar for the cake. The walnuts and the orange marmalade together made a 150 gms…. So that’s it..i had all my ingredients weighed out and altered appropriately..


Here’s what went in finally….

Ingredients for the cake:
150 gms flour,
150 gms unsalted butter,
75 gms powdered sugar,
3 eggs,
50 gms walnuts, chopped,
100 gms orange marmalade preserve, (I've used Kissan)
1 tsp baking powder,
1 tsp orange essence (water based),
Few drops of orange colour (optional), (I've not used here),

Method:
1.) Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees for 10 mins. Grease a cake tin and set it aside.
2.) Sift the flour and the baking powder thrice and set it aside. Using a spoon mix the orange marmalade to make a smooth paste.
3.) In a mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the orange essence and beat until creamy and soft peaks appear.
4.) Slowly incorporate the flour into the butter/sugar/egg mixture. Scrape down the sides to ensure the batter is mixed well.
5.) Add the marmalade and the walnuts and mix well until fully incorporated. If you are using the orange colour, this would be the right time to mix the colour.
6.) Pour the batter in the greased pan and place it in the centre of the oven for 30 mins.
7.) Remove and allow it to cool on a wire rack.

Ingredients for the Ganache:
200 ml cream,
200 gms dark chocolate,
Few drops of orange essence (oil based),
Some chocolate shavings for decoration,
Silver or coloured dagrees,

Method:
1.) Place the cream and the dark chocolate into a pan and heat over low flame until all the chocolate has melted. Add the orange essence and keep stirring until everything its mixed well and no lumps remain. Allow this to cool.
2.) Frost the cake as per your choice. Decorate with grated chocolate shavings and silver dagrees.

Place the cake in the fridge and serve chilled.

Sneek Peek:


I was amazed at the results..the orange and the chocolate were married perfectly...and the walnuts added the right amount of crunch to flavours. The chilled chocolate ganache tasted awesome as well.. I was quite skeptical about the ganache as this is the first time I was trying it out...but I'm glad it came out well..


Mom, hubby and my son loved it..and mom instantly declared me a "Daring Baker" :-)


We enjoyed this chilled bake as the country celebrated its 60th Republic Day!!!
I was introduced to something known as a Swiss Roll when I had been to a baking course few years ago.. Years later, after having forgotten and also lost the recipes given by that teacher, I joined another crash course in baking few months ago, where I was introduced to Swiss Rolls again. Well, the teacher taught us a very simple one with jam which was not something that I would jump in the first instance to make.

Few weeks back, we went to a restaurant for Sunday Buffet Lunch where they had a huge spread of sweet dishes apart from the starters and main course menu. They had this beautiful, little, Strawberry Swiss Rolls which were out of the world!!! I kept looking at them, wondering why it never occurred to me that I could enhance a simple Swiss Roll to something as delicious as this...

Swiss roll is a type of sponge cake baked in a very shallow rectangular baking tray, and then usually filled with jam or buttercream, rolled up, and served in circular slices. The origins of the term "Swiss" roll are unclear, since the cake does not have its origins in Switzerland, nor is it widely consumed there. It's a Central European cake, a traditional German, Hungarian and probably Austrian type of cake. (Info Source: Wikipedia)

I knew I had to try this out. I gave it some thought about what should be included to make it Strawberry Swiss Rolls...


Honestly, to someone who's never tried this before or are trying there hands in baking...this might look very intimidating...but please trust me on this...its absolutely easy and hardly takes about 30 mins to mix & bake and maybe another 30 mins for the frosting.. In this post, I'll take you through a step-by-step process which will help while you try this out....

Ingredients for the Swiss Roll: Makes 1 log of sponge cake
1 cup flour,
1 cup powdered sugar,
1 tsp baking powder,
3 eggs,
1-1/2 tsp vanilla essence,
2 sheets butter paper

Method for baking the cake:
1.) Pre-heat the oven to 180 degree C for 10 mins.
2.) Sift the flour and baking powder and set aside.
3.) Beat the eggs, vanilla, and sugar until thick in consistency.
4.) Fold in the sifted flour to the wet mixture.
5.) Pour the mixture into the paper lined and greased Swiss Roll tin. I've used a baking sheet.
6.) Bake for 10-15 mins or until skewer comes out clean.

Method for rolling the cake:


Steps as per the above picture
Step 1: Take the cake out of the oven.
Step 2: Keep a fresh butter paper on a flat surface and sprinkle granulated sugar over it. Take the hot cake and turn it upside down on this butter paper. Remove the butter paper which was used to line the baking sheet slowly ensuring not to tear the cake.
Step 3: From the width end of the cake start rolling the cake along with the granulated butter paper, away from you. Ensure its tightly done.
Step 4: The rolled cake should look as per the above picture (4). Keep it this way in the refrigerator for 20 mins.

Ingredients for Strawberry Frosting: Makes approximately 2 cups
1-1/2 cup double cream, chilled,
1/2 cup strawberry crush or fresh strawberries, pureed,
3-4 tbsp of powdered sugar, (optional)

Method:


Steps as per the above picture
Step 1: Measure out the cream and the strawberry crush in separate containers. In case you are using fresh strawberries, then add add 3-4 tbsp (or more as per taste) of sugar to the pureed strawberries.
Step 2: Whip the cream using an electric beater until soft peaks. Ensure to not over beat as it will turn into butter. Fold in the strawberry crush to the whipped cream very gently.
Step 3: Open the baked roll. Remove the butter paper from the back. Spread dollops of frosting and level it using a palette knife. Roll back the roll into its original shape.
Step 4: Place the rolled log onto a turntable or serving plate. Using the pallette knife, cover the roll with the remaining frosting except the circular ends.
Step 5: Sprinkle coloured sugar threads or anyt other decoratives or sprinklers of your choice. Chill for atleast 1-2 hrs before serving.
Step 6: Cut the rolls into 1/2-inch pieces and serve.

Sneek Peek:

It tasted delicious..and I was very happy with it overall...I didn't expect the end result, after frosting, would look so good. This is my second attempt at frosting...and I'm glad I've kind of got a hold over the palette knife now!!!


These Strawberry Swiss Rolls are on their way for my BIL and SIL for their 3rd wedding anniversary...Here's wishing you both many more years of blissful happiness and togetherness!!!
Happy Makar Sankranti & Pongal to all!!!

Makar Sankranti is perhaps the only Indian festival whose date always falls on the same day every year i.e. the 14th of January. Can you guess why? This is because the festival of Sankranti is based on the solar calendar unlike the rest of Indian festivals, which are based on the lunar calendar. Makar literally means "Capricorn" and Sankranti is the day when the Sun changes it's position from one sign of the Zodiac to the other. Even though Sankranti comes every month, in the month of Magha (January) it is considered especially auspicious as it coincides with the harvest season and marks the end of the winter season. (Info: Google)

Being a South Indian, I've relived the happiness and joy of Pongal every year... Though I did make chakara pongal which is customary in our house, I also decided to make Til Ke Laddu or tilgul.

The sesame seed or til is given a lot of importance because in this season it is considered to have nutritive and medicinal properties. Til when mixed with jaggery becomes sticky and is exchanged with one another as a symbol of friendship in Maharashtra. In Marathi there is a famous saying "tilgul ghya aani god god bola" which means..."take tilgul and speak sweetly". People are encouraged to imbibe the qualities of tilgul and stick together with love and friendship.

Here's the recipe...

Ingredients: Makes approx 30 big laddus
500 gms white sesame seeds, roasted,
250 gms jaggery, grated,
100 gms peanuts, roasted, deskinned,

Method:
1.) Grind the sesame seeds in a mixer to a semi-fine powder. Remove and set it aside.
2.) Grind the peanuts coarsely. Remove and set it aside.
3.) Grind the grated jaggery until its super-fine and start to form lumps.
4.) Add the ground sesame powder and peanut powder and give it a good churn.
5.) Remove and while its still warm, shape them mixture into round laddu's.

Sneek Peek:


Delicious, beautifully round laddu's....


"tilgul ghya aani god god bola"

Warning: If you are calorie or diet conscious - do not read any further..this recipe is not for you.. However, if you want to indulge or give-in to that sinful pleasure of a delicious chocolate cupcake..read on...

And for those who are like me..the "live life - queen size" types.. who don't count their calories or sorrows...this is just the perfect indulgence that you can ask for...or I would say..make for yourself!!! Treat yourself to this wonderful, truly-divine, moist, chocolatey..yummy chocolate cupcake..with a whipped cream frosting...:)

Now it does not take a special occasion to prepare something as wonderful as this..does it? I don't think so...And there is absolutely no special reason why I prepared this...except the fact that I was browsing through a very old recipe book which I had purchased from a second-hand bookshop in London, and saw this recipe...I went through the ingredients and wow!!!...I had everything that needed to be there...and that itself was motivation for me to prepare the cupcakes..I don't wait for occasions or tomorrow..Today is the day..So live it to the core..:)

Coming back to the recipe...this is an almost no-flour recipe..which is why it makes it so special..This is my first cake recipe where the quantity of flour is so less..Here's the recipe..

Ingredients: Makes 10 big sized cupcakes
150 gms dark chocolate,
150 gms butter,
150 gms sugar, powdered,
3 eggs,
2 tbsp flour, not leveled,

Method:
1.) Preheat the oven to 180°C.
2.) Using a double boiler, melt the butter and chocolate together. Ensure there are no lumps.
3.) Transfer to another bowl and add the sugar. Mix well and allow it to cool for a while.
4.) Add the eggs one at a time and beat into the mixture well (I used a fork). Add the flour and mix well.
5.) Pour the batter into a cake pan with greased butter paper. Bake for 20-25 mins or until the toothpick comes out clean. Turn off the oven and leave the pan inside it until completely cooled. Transfer into a wire rack and allow it to cool completely before frosting.

Note: This cake tastes best the next day. Do not frost the cake until 2-3 hrs before serving.

Ingredients for Frosting:
200 ml and more whipping cream,
3-4 tbsp of confectioners sugar, (more if you want it sweet)

Method:
1.) Whip the cream and sugar using an electric beater on high speed until you get soft peaks. Don't over-whip the cream or it will curdle.
2.) Using a piping bag, pipe the whipped cream on the chocolate cupcakes.
3.) Decorate with coloured sugar granules or cherries(I've used Cadbury's Gems)

Sneek Peek:

It tasted awesome..soft and moist from inside with a slight crunch on the top..and like I said, it tastes divine the next day..so plan for this well in advance!!!


Everybody loved it at home..especially my son..who got the best cupcake of the lot..and the below picture tells you why :)


This is, by far, the most delicious chocolate cupcake I've had...and its very quick to make..I guess it took me just abt 15 mins to put the batter together..Its an absolutely hassle-free, non-messy recipe, and I higly recommened it to all..


I think such a wonderful dessert should be dedicated to all the wonderful woman around the world..who constantly work hard to keep their little world happy with a smile on their face.....always!!!
Well folks, its a brand new year and this is my first recipe post...I haven't blogged for sometime now..mostly because I was out-of-station. I've been getting lots of calls and emails from friends and relatives saying that they were missing my recipes.. :) I'm happy..I'm excited..Well atleast some of my friends and family follow my blogs..:)

I wanted to start this year's blog with a sweet recipe..and decided to make this wonderful Oatmeal-Raisin cookie from Martha's website. I had bookmarked this recipe long back..and decided to try it out.


I did not make any alterations to the original recipe except that I used quick oats instead of old-fashioned oats and altered the temperature a little bit.

Ingredients: Makes 3 doz
1/2 cup flour,
1/4 tsp salt,
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder,
1/2 tsp baking powder,
1/2 tsp baking soda,
1/2 cup unsalted butter,
1/2 cup brown sugar,
1/4 cup granulated sugar,
1/2 tbsp vanilla essence,
1-1/2 tbsp milk,
1 egg,
1-1/2 cup rolled oats (I've used Quaker quick oats, so I've used a little more than 1-1/2 cups)
1/2 cup raisins,

Method:
1.) Sift the flour, salt, cinnamon powder, baking powder, and baking soda together and set aside.
2.) Line a baking sheet with butter paper. Preheat the oven at 200 degree centigrade for 10 mins.
3.) Cream the butter and both the sugars together. Add the egg and beat well. Add the milk and vanilla essence and beat well.
4.) Slowly add the flour mixture and mix well. Add the raisins and oats and mix well.
5.) Spoon a tablespoon of the mixture leaving enough space for the cookies to expand.
6.) Bake for 10-15 mins or until the sides start to turn brown.
7.) Allow it to cool for 5-8 mins and then remove.

Sneek Peek:


They result was outstanding...Slightly chewy and slightly crusty..I loved the taste..I think it would have tasted even better if I used old-fashioned oats..Too good!!!



For all my friends and family who have been missing my posts..here's a warm set of cookies...Just For You!!!
I miss my friend whom I bid adieu yesterday..who was with me for a whole year..2008 was a year of great learning..Lots of changes in my personal life..I quit my job after working for 9 long years, a big & difficult decision for me, but I took the plunge...We shifted to Bangalore from Hyderabad where we stayed for 5 long years...again a difficult decision..Change is always difficult..isn't it? The year also saw me starting this food blog..which then became my friend and companion..where I spend a lot of time these days!!! Health was a concern for me in 2008..but overall I would sum up 2008 as a bittersweet experience :-)

As I stand on the first day of 2009...A beautiful, bright and sunny morning...and take a deep breath of fresh air..I hope of a new beginning...new learnings..happiness and prosperity...for my family as well as yours.

I wish all my real world friends and virtual world friends a great and wonderful 2009!!!