Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best of 2013 ~ A Recap

Yet another year has zoomed past, a year filled with hopes, challenges, excitements, disappointments...
All of us have grown another year in blogging as well!

 I honestly thought of dropping the idea of recap this year, contrary to waht I do by the end of each year, without any reason. I have not more than 3 hours for the start of 2014 when I decided to casually stop by here to do a look back at the best posts. I was amazed to see the top recipes of the year, the ones I had never expected to be the toppers when I made up my mind to do a review!

I hosted the event, 'My Spicy Recipe' this year, for the first time ever since blogging. Let me sincerely thank the participants for the great support, again :)

Well, a few of you might remember that I was in Namakkal for the first quarter of the year. The posts about the cute little town which captured my personal views and outlook were very well received in blog as well as in facebook; 100 Days in Namakkal and The Saturday Market!

Surprisingly, the top 5 posts of the year had also been the ones posted during the Namakkal days, when I had a crude lap tap which failed to function every now and then and left with no good photo editors installed!

Soya Kheema Fritters 

Cardamom Flavoured Coconut Pull - Apart Bread

Thakkali Poondu Rasam / Tomato Garlic Rasam

Hokkaido Milk Bread With Tangzhong


Tender Coconut Mint Cooler 


Here's Wishing you all a Very Happy and Blessed 2014!

Lots of Love,
Bharathy :)

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Bienenstich Kuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)

Bienenstich Kuchen

This month marks 12 months of baking breads together and given that’s it’s also a season when there’s a lot of festive baking done in parts of the country and the world, Aparna thought we could bake something special this month. And the choice falls for Bienenstich Kuchen or what’s also known as the German Bee Sting Cake!
Bienenstich is not really a bread but a traditional German sweet yeasted cake that has a baked on topping of crunchy almond toffee-like layer and filled with a vanilla pastry cream. Bienenstich is traditionally eaten as dessert and also served with tea or coffee.
Bienenstich means “bee sting” in German and probably got its name from the honey flavoured topping that it typical of this yeasted cake. There are however some interesting stories connected to it. One story is that the German baker who was creating this recipe came across a bee (possibly attracted by the honey) and was stung by it and decided to name the cake after the incident!
Another story is that a group of German bakers stopped invaders from entering a neighbouring village, sometime in the 15th century, by throwing beehives at them. IN order to celebrate their victory, they created the original version of the Bienenstich.

The Bienenstich is made with enriched brioche-like dough that’s typical for yeasted cakes which means that it contains a lot of butter, some milk and eggs. I have reduced the egg to one in the recipe. If you do use eggs you can use one more (total of 2 eggs) but you might need to add one or two tbsps. more of flour to the dough. On the other hand if you don’t use eggs, please leave it out. It will make a slight difference to the texture but not too much.
This yeasted cake is typically filled with pastry cream which is a mix of custard and whipped cream. I have used an egg-free version that uses custard powder but feel free to use your preferred recipe for custard using eggs.
You may also like to use butter cream, Bavarian Cream or Diplomat Cream. Remember the cake is a bit heavy so your filling should not be runny or too soft or it will not be able to carry the weight of the upper cake layer. You can also add fruit (strawberry, kiwi, mango, etc) to your “cream” layer even though this is not traditional.

Bienenstich Kuchen

I have baked my Bienenstich in ramekins and served individually but you can also bake it in a round or a square tin and cut it out into squares like we do with brownies.

One of the problems of this yeasted cake is making sure the filling is strong enough to take the weight of the upper layer. The other problem is cutting the Bienenstich into slices or squares without the filling squishing out ad making a mess of everything.
The first problem can be taken care of by using a filling that will hold up and not using too much filling. The whipped cream can be stabilized with cornstarch (or agar or gelatin if you use it). You can always thing the remaining fillng and serve it with the Bienestich as a sauce.
The second problem can be taken care of by placing the lower layer of the cake on the serving plate and then makinge a collar around it with a double layer of parchment paper that should be a little taller than the height of your finished Bienenstich. Now spread the filling over the lower layer evenly.
Then pre-cut your upper almond toffee layer into slices or squares depending on the shape of your Bienenstich. Now place the slices/ squares on top of the filling so it looks like the top layer is whole. Refrigerate this for at least a couple of hours before serving. When ready to serve, remove the parchment collar, and use the slices/ squares as a guide and cut through the filling right to the bottom.

Note: If you cannot find sliced almonds where you live (as in my case), you can make them at home. They will not be as thin as the store-bough version but I personally prefer my home made variety.

Blanch almonds by dropping them in just boiled hot water (not in boiling water, but boiling water that has just been taken off the heat). If you boil them, they will cook and become soft. Let them sit in the water for about 5 minutes. Then drain the water off and rinse once in cold water. Strain well. The skins of the almonds should feel a little loose and look wrinkled now. Pinch each almond at the broad end with thumb and forefinger and the skin should slip off easily.
Let the almonds dry out on a kitchen towel in an airy place for about half an hour. Then lay each almond down on its flat side and, using a sharp knife, slice as thinly as you can. There you have your sliced almonds.

Bienenstich Kuchen

BienenstichKuchen (German Bee Sting Cake)
To serve 6-8
Recipe Source- Aparna 


For the Pastry Cream Filling:
250ml milk (I used 3%)
3tbsp sugar
3 tbsp vanilla flavoured custard powder
200 ml cream (I used 40% fat)
1 tbsp corn-starch

For the Dough:

1/4 cup milk (I used 3%)
100gm butter, at room temperature
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp instant yeast

For the Honey-Almond Topping:

50 gm butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup almonds, sliced* (see Note above)


Bienenstich Kuchen

Make the custard for the filling first. This can be made the previous day and refrigerated till required.
Keep aside 1/4 cup of milk, and put the remaining milk and the sugar in pan. Over medium heat, bring this to a boil while stirring frequently to dissolve the sugar. In the meanwhile, dissolve the custard powder in the 1/4 cup of milk. Add this in a stream, to the boiling milk and keep whisking so that no lumps are formed.
Keep whisking until the custard becomes very thick. Take the pan off the heat and let the custard cool to room temperature. Whisk it on and off so it stays smooth. If it does become lumpy after cooling, use a hand blender to make it smooth. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Once you are ready to fill the Bienenstich, whip 200ml of cream till soft peaks form. Then add the corn-starch and whip till it forms stiff peaks. Whisk the custard to make sure it is smooth. Gently fold the cream into the custard. If you feel it is too soft, refrigerate for a couple of hours and then use.

Bienenstich Kuchen

To make the dough, heat the milk until it is quite hot but not boiling. Cut the butter into pieces and add to the milk, stirring it until the better melts completely. Let it cool a little.
In the meanwhile, put the flour, sugar, salt and the yeast in the bowl of your processor. Run a couple of times to mix well and then add the egg (leave the egg out if you don’t use it). Run again till the egg has also mixed well. Now add the butter-milk mixture (it should be warm, not hot) and the then knead till it forms a smooth and soft (loose) brioche-like dough that’s just short of sticky. It should come way from the sides of the bowl and be easy to handle.
Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl. Cover loosely and let it rise for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This dough will rise quite well but not to double or as much as your regular bread dough.

Deflate the dough, and shape again to a smooth ball. Place it in a8”spring form cake tin lined with parchment. It is important to do this otherwise the topping will make the bread/ cake sticky and difficult to unmould. Flatten the dough a little, pressing down lightly so that the dough fits the cake tin. It doesn’t matter if its not touching the sides like batter does. Let it rise for about 30 to 45 minutes. It will not rise very much and look a little puffy.

Bienenstich Kuchen

Prepare the topping while the dough rises. Melt the butter, sugar, honey and vanilla in a small pan, over medium heat. Keep stirring frequently and it will start bubbling up. Let it cook for about 3 minutes or so until it turns to a light beige colour. Add the sliced almonds, and stir well till the almonds are well coated. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool a bit. The mixture will become quite thick.

Bienenstich Kuchen

Now get ready to bake the bread/ cake. Once the dough has risen, use a spoon take bits if the topping (it will be quite thick, like a sticky fudge) and distribute it uniformly over the surface. If there are small gaps they will get covered once the bread/ cake is baking.

Bienenstich Kuchen

Bake at 180C (350F) for about 25 to 35 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling. A cake tester through the centre should come out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for abpout 15 minutes. Then gently loosen the sides with a spatula and unmould. Let it cool completely on a rack.

Bienenstich Kuchen

When it has cooled completely, slice the cake into two equal layers carefully, using a very sharp knife. Spread the pastry cream on the lower layer and top with the upper layer and refrigerate till ready to serve.

Bienenstich Kuchen

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Friday, December 20, 2013

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies with Oreo Biscuits

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies

My brother, sister and myself own the similar model phones .We are obsessive with this new age cross-platform mobile messaging app named whatsapp. Guess what? We exchange messages in a crazy way! We are based in 3 different countries with very different time zones and this app binds us unbelievably together! Now, brother bakes a brownie and shares the picture of the yummy chocolatey treat with his sisters in his brand new spring form pan.

This sister shoots an eye, demands for the recipe of the cake along with the pan :).The e(o)ver generous brother brings them all the way from the far west to the home town where he meets his sisters and parents. Bliss!

All this happened a month back when we had a week's break in Kottayam. The moments went zoom and the time flew past. Brother showed me a packet of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie mix and told this was what he baked and shared via app. I squealed in delight and grabbed the packet!

I never had an idea to blog about this one as it's about an instant mix. Still I was prompted to shoot a few pictures to share in fb for Christmas and a few loving requests got me now to share in this space.
Now comes the important point which I hadn't shared earlier! I love fudgy heavy chocolate brownies and I mixed along 3-4 oreo biscuits along the batter ;)

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies with Oreo Biscuits
Yields- 16 squares

You need:

1 pouch of Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie mix
4 Oreo biscuits, crumbled (I used my fingers)
1/3 Cup Water
1/3 Cup Vegetable Oil
1 Egg


Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies
Before and after baking

Preheat oven to 160 deg C or 325°F. Prepare 8” x 8” baking pan by lightly greasing or spraying with non-stick cooking spray.

 Blend water, oil and egg in a mixing bowl. Add brownie mix and crushed oreo biscuits and stir until moistened (about 20 strokes). Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.

 Bake for 45-50 minutes.For glass pan, add 5 minutes to the bake time. Cool completely in pan before cutting.

Do not over bake. Fresh-baked brownies appear under baked but cool to doneness.

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies

Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies

                                    Fudgy Brownies, made from scratch, are already here.
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Friday, December 13, 2013

A Spicy Tamil Lunch and the Rains!

Lunch and Rain

Lunch and Rain

We have not seen sun for the past 3 days. Its windy, cold and the downpour is heavy!
This is the time when the family craves for a wide spread of  'Vegetarian South Indian Lunch'. As you might have read earlier in many of my posts, we enjoy brunch by 10.30 every morning, straightaway.
Come monsoon, I love to stay tucked inside the warmth of duvet enjoying the cozy feel and have to struggle pulling myself up from the bed. Once up, the wonderful weather prompts me to be active and I will soon be brimming with energy!
Today morning had been one such day, when a full fledged lunch was made, photographed and blogged! ;)

Lunch and Rain

1. Pacha Thakkali Sambhar - The method is same as the Drumsticks/Murungakkai Sambhar. Raw garden fresh organic green tomatoes were used instead of drumsticks.

2. Vendakkai Vathakkal / Stir-fried ladies finger. I don't have the recipe yet, will post soon.

3. Poosanikkai Morkuzhambu . The recipe is here. I have also posted Bonda Morkuzhambu here.

4. Appalam.

5. Kathrikkai Puli Kuzhambu - I have the detailed recipe of Mochai-Kathiri-Murungai Kuzhambu here. I used only Kathirikkai/Brinjals today.

6. Rasam - Yes, it is the same Thakkali Poondu Rasam :)


8.Lime pickle & Mor milagai- I have posted Citron/Narthangai pickle here. Lime is used to make this pickle instead of citron.

I also had Vazhaithandu Koottu and plain dal and forgot to add here. Anyhow it is fine not to overcrowd :). I didn't have a mood to make Payasam but had Maja Blanca, a Filipino dessert, to complete the meal.

Lunch and Rain

Oh yeah! I am geering up for the Christmas Bakes..... :)

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Easy Kerala Pavakka Roast / Deep Fried Bitter Gourd with Onions

Pavakka Roast

Many of amma's recent side dishes are seasonal. She makes yummy dishes during one of our visits and while on your next, she has a handful of new ones! The funniest part is that she forgets how she made a particular dish, we would have thoroughly enjoyed during our previous holiday with her. That's her :). Very quick and smart in learning a recipe and very forgetful :)

I pictured this pavakka roast she made during our last visit. Our maid Suma helped her with this one and while I am blogging I am dismissing the thought of reconfirming the recipe with her simply because she would have already forgotten about this :)
Typing simple the recipe with the aid of a crude note I made then along with the abundant step wise pictures I clicked along that day.. :)

I have noted that in Kerala, the bitter gourd is sliced long while in Tamil Nadu the vegetable in sliced round and thin for making the dry roasted version.

Pavakka Roast

 Kerala Pavakka Roast
Serves 2-3
Time needed 40 minutes

You Need:

Bitter gourd/ Pavakka - Sliced long as one inch pieces. Need not be very thin. - 2 cups
Coconut bits/thenga kothu - 1tbsp
Big onions - sliced thin- 1 cup, heaped
Green chilles- 3-4 slit lengthwise
Coconut oil- 1/2- 3/4 cup- to fry
salt - to taste


Pavakka Roast

Boil bitter gourd in just enough water adding green chillies and salt and cook till half done. Drain excess water and add in the coconut bits.

Pavakka Roast

Keep ready the sliced onions. Heat oil in a wok and begin with 1/2 cup of boiled 'pavakka'. Keep the flame to minimum and continue frying till the pcs turn brown and crisp. Drain using a slotted spoon and arrange on a flat vessel. Repeat as batches until you are done with frying. In the remaining oil saute the onions till brown and crisp ( pour a little more oil if necessary) Drain the fried onions and top the fried 'pavakka'.

Pavakka Roast

Serve hot with steamed rice and sambhar 

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