Alice Medrich's Warm Mocha Tart- Chocolate and coffee Tart

This month's "Monthly Mingle" theme is something that's hard to resist- chocolate! Plus it's being hosted by my good friend Ria so I had to take part. To coincide -a friend was throwing a holiday party and immediately I was dreaming up the fantastical chocolate drenched creation I was going to make. But what would it be? Cake? Cookies? Decadent Brownies? I decided to leave it to Alice. 
Have I told you how much I love the chocolate queen Alice Medrich? When I'm craving a chocolate dessert, I can't think of anyone I'd rather have than Alice, looking over my shoulder, making sure my oooey gooeey chocolate is set to the perfect lever of oooey gooey-ness.
So I finally zeroed in on the gorgeously delicious looking but very simple to make sounding Warm Mocha tart.
It's made with very simple ingredients- cream, cocoa, a stick and a half of butter, an egg..No need to chop up that bar of chocolate I've been hiding, and best of all- a very non intimidating recipe for a buttery tart crust! My very first crust from scratch and I am kissing Pillsbury off for good!

Warm Mocha Tart
Recipe Source: Alice Medrich from Bittersweet from here
Serves 8 to 10

Special equipment: A 9 1/2-inch fluted tart pan with removable bottom

For the crust
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
For the filling
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process- I used my favourite Ghiradelli's Dutch process but Valrhona would be even better)
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 teaspoons instant espresso powder (such as Medaglia d’Oro), or 1 1/2 teaspoons instant coffee crystals
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Make the crust: (makes exactly enough for a 9 1/2 inch pie plate )
1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).
2. Mix the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla in a medium bowl with a fork. Add the flour and mix just until well blended with a pastry blender or a large fork. Don’t worry if the dough seems too soft. Press all of the dough very thinly and evenly into the sides and bottom of the tart pan. ( It's ok if it seems very thin- it will thicken when baked) If it seems like the butter is getting too oily and it's becoming difficult to manipulate the dough, simply put it in the fridge for a few minutes, it'll become easier to handle.
3. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is a deep golden brown. Simply beautiful!

Make the filling
1. Place the butter, sugar, cocoa powder, and cream in a medium saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the mixture is blended and smooth and begins to simmer around the edges. Remove from the heat and stir in the espresso powder and vanilla.
2. Just before the crust is ready, whisk the egg thoroughly into the hot chocolate mixture.
3. Pour the filling into the hot crust and turn off the oven. Leave the tart in the oven until it quivers like tender Jell-O in the center when the pan is nudged, about 10 to 12 minutes. ( it took me about 10 more mins) Cool on a rack. As it cools it will thicken more.
4. Serve the tart warm or at room temperature. If you are storing it in the fridge then let it rest at room temperature for about 2 hours before serving since it doesn't taste as good cold- but that's just my preference.

You could also decorate it with some grated curls of bittersweet chocolate like I did, or strawberries sliced in half or even just a coating of powdered sugar or cocoa powder.

Notes from Alice: "This remarkable crust barely shrinks in the pan, so there is no need to weight or even prick it before baking. To ensure that the bottom remains crunchy, bake the crust fully, to a deep golden brown before pouring in the filling. Either natural or Dutch-process cocoa works well here. The former has a livelier, more complex, fruity flavor, while the latter has a cozy old-fashioned flavor reminiscent of chocolate pudding." 

Verdict: The crust was buttery and delicious and I will be using this simple recipe for all my tarts from now on. The rich chocolate pudding was delicious with the right balance of chocolate and coffee- just enough so that they both were prominent and complementary. However, the filling was a little too runny and liquidy even though I let it stay in the oven for 10 more mins. 
Maybe next time I'll put it in the fridge to set a little or maybe add a tsp of corn starch to thicken the pudding. 
If you are making this for a party I would suggest you make tartlets in mini tart molds and serve individual portions instead of making one large tart like I did since the runny custard might make it a little messey to cut and serve. Of course you could just make it for yourself- which I now sorely wish I had!

Am also sending this to the "In the Bag" event since I've used cream and chocolate 2 of the items in the bag :)
This is also going to Tammana's Winter comfort food event because what could be more comforting than warm ooey gooey chocolate? 

Ginger Spice Macarons

Take a look at my swirly pumpkin cheesecake from the previous post. Isn't she lovely? For the batter I had to beat cream cheese with nutmeg and crystallized ginger and as I was polishing away ahem taste testing this I thought - this would make an incredibly awesome macaron filling. And I was right! So here is my discovery- that I just couldn't wait to share with you all- delicious cream cheese ginger spice filled macarons! 
Unfortunately I ran out of cream cheese and time to fill the rest of my macarons, which are as you can see shamefully lacking feet. But feet or no feet I still think macs taste awesome. This time I used Helene's recipe on the recommendation of the very talented foodieblogger Ria who I had the good fortune to meet for a short bit last week during her visit to California. ( More on that and her awesome almond cookies later when she posts the recipe- they were really good and are definitely worth waiting for!)
First check these out!

While my first batch had no feet at all, for the second batch, I lowered the oven temperature to 275 and also placed two large cake tins directly underneath my cookie sheet ( tripling the cookie tray would be what I was trying to achieve but unfortunately I only own one non-heavy duty professional baker type cookie sheet) This seemed to help and looking in the oven window I saw this:

Could they be? Yes they are! Glorious little  ruffles on the underside of my macs! Those longed for, tiny little feet! However in my excitement I opened the oven door too soon so these had cracked, undercooked shells that gave me a broken heart :(  Never mind I have 6 egg whites aging on my counter waiting for my next macattempt! I will definitely be trying Helene's recipe again.

Ginger Spice Macarons

For my awesome Ginger Spice cream cheese filling:
  • Cream cheese- 8 ounces softened ( I used one block of the Philadelphia brand) 
  • Sugar: 1/4 cup or more depending on sweet tooth
  • Nutmeg powder: 1/4 tsp
  • Crystallized ginger: 1/4 cup ( shredded in your food processor) 
In your food processor or using a stick blender ( Like I did) shred the ginger along with the sugar. Now add the cream cheese and nutmed and blend until smooth and combined.
Let it harden in the fridge for about 30 mins and then spoon or pipe onto your macaron and sandwich with another macaron shell.

For the shells:
Recipe Source: Adapted from Helene from her blog Tartlettle here as well as notes from her classes kindly shared by bellalimento from here

90 gr egg whites (roughly 3 egg whites)
25 gr to 50gr (2 Tb to 1/4 cup) granulated sugar
200 gr ( 1.5 cups + 2Tb) powdered sugar
110 gr almonds ( 3/4 cup) (slivered, blanched, sliced, whatever you like)
Separate the whites from the yolks and place the whites in a lean bowl 48 hrs or atleast 24 hours before you make the macarons. Leave the whites at room temp, uncovered or loosely covered with a towel at least 24 hrs. Refrigerate after that if desired. You can use eggs that have been “aging” for up to 5 days. This helps the water to evaporate and is important for the right texture and for achieving those feet. Am sure you can skip this step if you arent aiming for perfection. They taste about the same. Also don't worry about old egg whites killing you. The germies get killed at the temperatures were going to bake them at. 
If you are still queasy or just in a hurry you can skip the aging and microwave the egg whites for two short 10 second periods, stirring in between each period. Careful! don't overdo this and cook the eggs! if you do please start over with fresh eggs and reducing the time. 
Prepare the macarons:
Place the powdered sugar and almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse until the nuts are finely ground. Sift a couple of time to remove bits and pieces. Regrind if necessary. You can also use a coffee grinder for the nuts or you could use store bought almond meal like I did from Trader Joes. But don't forget to sift, sift and sift again.
Once your nuts and powdered sugar are mixed together, rub them in between your fingertips to break the bigger pieces.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, (think bubble bath foam) gradually add the granulated sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue (think shaving cream). Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry.
Add the nuts and powdered sugar to the meringue, give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after counting to 10. Give quick strokes at first to break the mass and slow down. The whole process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the tops flattens on its own you are good to go. If there is a small beak, give the batter a couple of turns. If you overfold the batter will become too runny so be very careful.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (Ateco #807 or #809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper or silicone mats lined baking sheets.I used my spritz cookie gun instead with the icing tips which I personally find easier to use rather than the frustrating double-ended pastry bag. I also found this macaron template/stencil very useful- just print it out, slide it under your baking sheet, pipe out the macarons and then remember to slide it out and remove before putting them in the oven, else you'll have a nice flame.
Now lift the tray up and gently let fall, so that the underside of the tray hits your kitchen counter, to let air bubbles escape. No, I don't want you to throw macaron batter all over your kitchen :P
Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit. 
If using convection: preheat the oven to 280F. If using regular electric or gas, preheat the oven to 300F ( I reduced to 275F) . When ready, bake for 18 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
Am sending my delicious fall inspired macarons to this months Macattack at the mactweets blog hosted by the awesome Deeba and Jamie.

For more macaron tips see my post with tips from my macaron classes
Obsessed much? want more? Here is a very useful document from Helene of Tartlette's feature on macarons in Dessert Magazine which she's linked on her awesome blog

Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake Pie with easy Gingersnap Cookie Crust

Hope everyone in this part of the world enjoyed a good thanksgiving meal! I have an awesomely sweet friend and fellow new mom to thank for hosting it this year, inspite of being a busy working mom of an active little toddler. I always enjoy meeting them and my little monkey has a good time checking out baby T's toys and trying to lick him!

I thought I'd take a side dish along, and after many hours of deliberation and back and forth-ing between this, and this, I finally decided it would be pie. Pumpkin pie. But after having made Libby's  pumpkin pie and a lovely Cardamom Caramel pumpkin pie already, I wanted to make something different. So then it was back to my favourite food blogs and sites and thumbing through cook books, until I began to see ginger molasses pies, pecan pumpkin pies, buttermilk pies... everywhere. And then  it happened. I saw this stunner on Gourmet magazine and fell in love. Look at her! Swirly pumpkin and cream cheese goodness, spiked with crystallized ginger. Just tasting the batter itself I knew this one is a true winner.

Pumpkin ginger cheesecake pie with easy gingersnap cookie crust

Recipe Source: Lillian Chou for Gourmet Magazine from here

Serves 8. Active time about 20 mins, From start to finish including resting and cooling : 8 hours so best if made the day before your big fat thanksgiving bash.


For the gingersnap crumb crust from here
  • tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus a little more ( about a tsp) for greasing
  • 1 1/2 cups cookie crumbs (10 graham crackers or 24 small gingersnaps; about 6 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Special Equipment


    a 9- to 9 1/2-inch pie plate (4-cup capacity)
  • To make cookie crumbs, break up crackers or cookies into small pieces ( I thulped crushed mine, still in the package, with a rolling pin) , then pulse in a food processor until finely ground.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350ºF. Lightly butter pie plate
  • Stir together all ingredients in a bowl and press evenly on bottom and the side of pie plate. Bake until crisp, 12 to 15 minutes, then cool on a rack to room temperature, about 45 minutes
For the Pumpkin Ginger Cheesecake filling:
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup chopped crystallized ginger ( the original recipe stated 1/4 cup which would make it very strong)
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg ( The original recipe says 1/2 tsp freshly grated nuteg-but I think that's too much) 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup pumpkin (If using fresh pumpkin, cut it in half and bake at 300 F for about 30 mins and scoop out the flesh after discarding seeds. If using a 15-oz can-you'll use almost all of it)
  • Make the gingersnap pie crust and let it cool.
  • Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Pulse sugar and ginger in a food processor until ginger is finely chopped, then add cream cheese and pulse until smooth. Add eggs, milk, flour, nutmeg, and salt and pulse until just combined. ( i don't have a food processor, but my immersion/stick blender worked just fine) 
  • Keep 2/3 cup cream cheese mixture separately - we'll use this later. Whisk together remaining 1 1/3 cups cream cheese mixture and pumpkin in a large bowl until combined.
  • Pour pumpkin mixture into gingersnap crumb crust. Now slowly stir the cream cheese mixture kept separately  and drizzle decoratively over top of pumpkin mixture, and swirl little circles with back of a spoon for that marble like effect. Gorgeous!
  • Put pie on a baking sheet and bake until center is just set, 35 to 45 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool to room temperature, about 2 hours, then chill, loosely covered with foil, at least 4 hours. Very gently blot any moisture from surface ( If required) with paper towels before serving.
  •  This cheesecake can be chilled up to 3 days (although the crust will soften slightly)

Verdict: The cheesecake pie looked really good and everyone commented on the swirlyness, but unfortunately  T and I thought the spices were way too overpowering (The others were too nice to say!) Maybe because I made it the night before and it sat in the fridge overnight and matured, but the next time I make this, I will reduce the ginger and nutmeg by half (as already noted in the recipe above) 

Cinnamon Apple Braided Brioche Bread

I totally love baking apples into pies, breads, tarts and cakes. There is nothing I love more than the smell of baked apples and cinnamon, except for the smell of yeasty bread so why not combine the two huh? Let me tell you how fantastic that idea is!
A soft, rich, decadent brioche that lovingly wraps around a filling of apples, cinnamon and caramelized brown sugar. And while this may look like I spent 10 hours slaving over, its really quite easily done. I used the pre-made and refrigerated, no-knead brioche recipe from Artisan Bread in 5. Seriously Zoe and Jeff, like hundreds of others, I love you guys. As you may have realized, I have much love for genius chefs and foodies who come up with easy ways to make delicious goodies, with simple tools like a mixing bowl and a spoon. 

Cinnamon Apple Braided Brioche Bread
Recipe source: slightly adapted from Artisan bread in 5 minutes a day from their website here
Brioche dough (makes about 4 loaves- I used only half the recipe) 
You could also use the slightly less decadent Challah dough (see here
  • 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 8 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup honey 
  • 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, melted
  • 7 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Mix the yeast, salt, eggs honey and melted butter with the water in a 5-quart bowl, or lidded (not airtight) food container. I used a largeglass  mixing bowl ( one from set of  Pyrex stackable, lidded ones I love and use for prepping, storing or reheating daily) 
Mix in the flour, using a spoon until all of the flour is incorporated.
Cover (not airtight), and allow to sit at room temperature for about two hours.
The dough can be used as soon as it is chilled. This dough is way too sticky to use after the initial rise, but once it is chilled it is very easy to handle. 
Zoe also uses this same dough to create other goodies like this Tatincaramel sticky bunsgrilled fruit tartFresh Fruit Muffins,Brioche à têteapricot pastries and even doughnuts! The dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. After that you can freeze the dough.

For the Apple filling:
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon pwd
1 apple ( I used a sweet gala apple but you could use any) slice thin with a knife or mandoline )

1 egg (lightly beaten) mixed with 1 tbsp water

Mix the brown sugar and cinnamon powder for the filling
Take the brioche or challah bread from the fridge and working quickly, roll it out on a baking sheet or silpat.
Roll the dough into a rough rectangular shape
Spread out the filling in the center portion of the rectangle and lay out the apple slices over it.
With kitchen shears or a pizza cutter cut evenly spaced strips on both sides of the filling and lightly egg wash them ( The egg wash acts like a glue)
Fold the strips over the filling, crossing one strip from one side over the other, and pinch them together. Zoe suggested something I missed- Make sure that there is quite a bit of excess dough beyond the point where you pinch them together. If you pinch right at the ends it will bust open when baking. Hence you may notice that some of my filling has come out :( 
For a far more easier to understand pictoral how-to see the Danish Braided Bread from Artisanbreadin5 here or their fabulous book.

Let the braid sit loosely covered with plastic wrap ( I didn't cover mine) for about 40 mins
Slide the braid on the baking mat to a cookie sheet/baking tray
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Lightly coat the bread with egg wash and sprinkle with regular or pearl sugar, a sprinkling of slivered almonds if you like, and bake in the middle rack of your oven for 20 mins or until a tooth pick insirted into the center of the bread comes out clean.
If you can wait that long, allow to sit for about 15 mins before cutting slices off and serving. 
And yes, yes of course you'd like to try other fillings- savoury like feta cheese and spinach, or as Zoe suggests in her Danish Braid:
1/2 cup softened cream cheese, 
3 tablespoons sugar, 
1 teaspoon vanilla, 
raspberry preserves and fresh blackberries or other fruit like peaches, pears... many many beautiful possibilities.

Am sending my gorgeous braided brioche to this month's Monthly Mingle hosted by the passionate about baking Deeba with the theme 'baking with fruit'.

Alice Medrich's Best One Bowl Cocoa Brownie

I had about 20 mins until a cousin dropped in for dinner and I had a sudden urge to bake brownies.
So while I waited for T to navigate the end of day traffic I grabbed a bowl and some simple pantry staples and whipped up a batch of these delicious, decadent brownies. We had some warm from the oven after dinner with ice cream and I ( hesitantly)  wrapped up the rest for him to take back.
Did I say one bowl is all I used? One bowl in which to melt butter in the microwave and mix up the other ingredients with a spoon. No need  to break out my fancypants stand mixer. I see myself baking these many, many more times.

Best Cocoa Brownies
Recipe source: Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet from smittenkitchen here

Makes 16 larger or 25 smaller brownies
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks, 5 ounces or 141 grams) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (9 7/8 ounces, 280 grams) sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (2 7/8 ounces, 82 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt (or a heaping 1/4 teaspoon flaky salt, as Deb suggests)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, cold
1/2 cup (66 grams, 2 3/8 ounces) all-purpose flour
2/3 cup walnut or pecan pieces (optional)

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of an 8×8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
( I used my silicone cupcake molds instead)

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot. It looks fairly gritty at this point, but don’t fret — it smooths out once the eggs and flour are added. (I just put it all in a medium size Pyrex bowl and microwaved it 10 seconds at a time until the butter was melted, as Deb also suggests is ok.)

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Stir in the nuts, if using. Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes is Medrich’s suggestion but it took me and Deb at least 10 minutes longer to get them set and for the bottom to get a little crisp -just the way I like it :) . Let cool completely on a rack. (Deb goes further and puts her's in the fridge or freezer for a while; to get them to cut with clean lines.)
Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares.

As you may have noticed I used my mini cupcake molds filled about one fourth instead since I didn't feel like messing around with lining. I placed the molds on my digital scale to make sure I was spooking equal amounts of batter- about 50 gms into each so they all were the same size and bake evenly. I got exactly 16 two bite size brownies. The easiest way to spoon the batter is to use two spoons one with the batter and the other to scoop it into the mold. Sometimes I use an ice-cream scoop.

Verdict: Rich, decadent without being overly so, crispy outsides and chewy on the inside as all good brownies must be. Alice and Deb certainly don't disappoint! The reason they are real winners are that they take so little time, effort and ingredients to make ( not to mention fewer dishes to clean!). A definite keeper recipe that will be made often- everytime I'm craving my chocolate fix :) And oooh the possibilities- nuts, choco chips, orange extract, cheese, caramel, peanut butter cups....some body stop me!

Am sending these brownies over to Divya for her brownie event! 

Caramel Cardamom Pumpkin Pie

I have been waiting all year for fall to arrive so that I would have an excuse to make pumpkin pie. Well I cheated and made the famous Libbey's recipe in April but now seems like the perfect time- there's a nip in the air and pumpkins on every doorstep and I also located 2 tins of pumpkin at my local grocers ( Seriously what's with the tinned pumpkin shortage?).
This year I searched through many recipes and finally settled on Gourmet magazine's which is laced with caramel. I also had a nagging suspicion that caramom was the missing pumpkin spice mix ingredient and boy was I right!
Many bloggers say that canned pumpkin tastes as good as using the real thing, but I'm planning to test that and  found a cute, small cooking pumpkin  that I plan to turn into another pie soon. In the meanwhile I had all these dreams of going Anne Gedes with the jellybean posing cutely with it. Unfortunately my 10 month old preferred to treat it as a football or slap at it and roll it away so I couldn't get one picture with both the pumpkin and my little pumpkin in the same frame :(
Fortunately the pie behaved very well and turned out great!

Caramel Cardamom Pumpkin Pie
Recipe source: Maggie Rugiero for Gourmet Magazine Nov 2006 from here
Active time: 45 including baking and cooling: 6 hours


For Pastry crust:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 to 5 tablespoons cold water to which some ice cubes have been added

For Pie Filling:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 cups heavy cream
1 (15-oz) can pumpkin (not pie filling; a scant 2 cups)
1 1/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
4 cardamoms either powdered or smashed to release the oils
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, lightly beaten

Special equipment: a pastry or bench scraper or a large fork ; a 10-inch fluted metal quiche pan (2 inches deep) with a removable bottom; pie weights/ coins or raw rice

Make dough for pie crust:
Blend together flour, butter, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Drizzle evenly with 4 tablespoons ice water and gently stir with a fork (or pulse in processor) until incorporated.
Squeeze a small handful of dough: If it doesn’t hold together, add more ice water, 1/2 tablespoon at a time, stirring (or pulsing) until incorporated, then test again. (Do not overwork dough or pastry will be tough.)
Turn mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 4 portions. With heel of your hand, smear each portion once or twice in a forward motion to help distribute fat. Gather all of dough together with scraper and press into a ball, then flatten into a 5-inch disk. Chill dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 1 hour.
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 375°F.
Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 14-inch round, then fit into quiche pan and trim excess dough flush with rim of pan. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes.

Bake shell:
Lightly prick bottom of shell all over with a fork, then line with foil and fill with pie weights. Put quiche pan on a baking sheet and bake pie shell until side is set and edge is pale golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove weights and foil and bake shell until bottom is golden, about 10 minutes more. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 30 minutes.

Make filling while shell cools:
Bring sugar and water to a boil in a 3- to 3 1/2-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
Add the cardamom.
Boil syrup on high heat, washing down side of pan occasionally with a pastry brush dipped in cold water and gently swirling pan (do not stir), until mixture is a deep golden caramel, about 10 minutes but be careful it doesn't burn too much.
Reduce heat to moderate and carefully add 1 cup cream (mixture will bubble vigorously), stirring until caramel is dissolved. Stir in remaining cup cream and bring just to a simmer.
Whisk together pumpkin purée, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in hot cream mixture, then add eggs, whisking until combined well. Pour filling into cooled crust and bake until puffed 1 1/2 inches from edge and center is just set, 55 to 60 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack, about 2 hours. (Don't worry if it looks a little runny. The pie will continue to set as it cools.)

Dough can be chilled up to 1 day or frozen, wrapped well in foil, 1 month.
Pie shell can be baked 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature.
Pie is best eaten the same day but can be baked 1 day ahead and cooled completely, then chilled, covered. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Am sending over a warm piece of pie to the passionate about baking Deeba who is hosting this month's Monthly Mingle started by Meeta with the theme baking with fruit.

Green mung rice gruel / Cherupayar with Kanji- Better than Chicken soup!

It has been an eventful last couple of weeks that left me with very little time or energy to post. We were attacked by a horrid flu that had us all sniffling and feverish but the worst were these loud hacking coughs that went on for days. I unearthed this Ogden Nash gem which sums up exactly how we felt.
Thankfully the little jelly bean and my mom in law who is visiting us, escaped the flu and we got over it too, soon enough, just in time for the Bridge school benefit concert!
I also had a pleasant visit by an old college friend who brought me some yummy chocolate fudge and then by my best friend from school! Now eagerly awaiting my visitors this month- a cousin and then my best blogger buddie -Ria of Ria's collection! Can't wait to meet her finally!
Well in the midst of all this I have been cooking and learning from my awesome mom in law who has converted me to into being someone who now uses measurements and actually follows those pesky instructions- the consistent results you get are reward enough! No more wondering what I did wrong this time or if my curries are too salty.
Thought I would post this simple and basic recipe for cherupayar or green mung lentil that I am convinced helped to cure our colds!

I hope you have all been well. But if you have fallen a victim to the nasty flu season too, this simple and hearty lentil dish served steaming hot with rice in the water that it has been cooked in is waaay better than that can of campbells chicken soup I know you were reaching for.
Cherupayar is easy to digest and does not put additional strain on an already weakened body fighting so many evil germies. The hot steaming soup-like kanji soothes sore throats and opens up blocked nosies.

Recipe source: This is an everyday kerala dish that I learnt to perfect from my mother-in-law.

2 cups Green mung
2 tsp salt
1 medium onion
1 head of garlic (about 8 pods)
4-5 curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
4 tsp crushed chilly flakes
3 tsp coconut or other vegetable oil

Pressure cook the mung dal in 3 and 3/4ths cup of water to which the salt has been added.
Let it whistle 6 times ( include the ssh sounds which don't sound quite as loud as a regular whistle)
If you're not using a pressure cooker, you can simply put the beans in a large pot of water and cook until soft, but this will take longer.
Meanwhile chop the onions into long thin slices or small cubes.
Slice the garlic thinly and fry in the oil on medium heat until it turns light brown.
Now add the onions and sautee until translucent.
Now add the curry leaves, turmeric, chilly flakes and stir until the raw smell leaves and you can see that the oil has separated and is glistening on the surface of the onions.
Turn the heat down to a simmer
Add the cooked green mung and stir until well mixed.

To make the rice gruel or kanji, cook 2 cups of rice in 4 cups water until rice is soft. Reserve the water and serve a ladelful of the rice still in the water along with the green mung.
Am sending this to My Legume Love Affair hosted this month at Dil se

Kerala Kitchen: Idiyappam, Noolappam, String hoppers

If you have been to Kerala you would have most likely come across String hoppers or Idiyappam, which  is a noodle like dish eaten mostly at breakfast. It is made from steamed rice flour forced through a special mold. The beautiful brass mold or "kozhal" in the pictures belongs to my mother-in-law and so does this recipe.

Strangely I didn't like noolappam very much as a kid and I noticed my little nephews didn't take to them too much either, preferring their PBJ's to this weird looking dish that seemed like a cross between noodles and idlis! You can try serving them soaked in coconut milk and sprinkled with sugar, the way my grandmother tried to entice us to eat them. But don't be too disappointed if they don't like them- more for the rest of us!

These idiyappams made me very kerala-sick and I dug up some pictures of  the river next to my grandmother's house in Kerala. Isn't she beautiful?Perfect for little girls to stare into her depths from the vangi or canoe cut out of the bark of a coconut tree, perfect to go swimming in with a bunch of cousins and their dogs. We would stretch out a towel under the water, drop a few grains of rice and catch the little fish that greedily attacked the rice. I still love to skittle pebbles off it's surface, watch buffaloes being bathed, watch long snakelike onam boat racers pass by leaving behind floating garlands. These Noolappams are just meant to be eaten while you sit at the water's edge and listen to your grandmothers stories. 

Picture 137

Picture 150

Stringhoppers/Idiyappam/ Noolappam
Recipe source: My mother in law

  • Idiyappam mold
  • Idli steamer
  • Large covered pot or pressure cooker which will fit the idli steamer
  • Mixing bowl & spoon / stand mixer
  • Stove 
  • Rice flour- 2 cups ( I recommend the double horse brand available at most Indian grocery stores.It yields very soft and delicate results!)
  • Water- 2 cups ( you might need upto 2 cups more depending on the type of rice flour you use) 
  • Salt- 1/4 tsp

  • Roast the rice flour in a wok over the stove. Stir it occasionally so that the flour at the bottom does not burn and turn brown. You will know that its done when the rice flour no longer clings to the side of the vessel but comes off easily. Also if you take a pinch between your fingers you will see that its much coarser texture now.
  • Boil water until bubbling
  • Take the roasted rice flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and attach dough hooks and mix on slow setting. You could also use a bowl and a wooden spoon.
  • Add the boiling water a little at a time and mix until well combined and the dough starts coming together as a ball. 
  • Take enough of the still warm dough and fill the idiyappam mold
  • Press out the equivalet of an idli size into the greased (with vegetable oil) idli steamer.
  • Continue and stack the idli steamer tiers alternatively so that the depressions don't squish the idiyappams on the tier below.
  • Steam them for about 5-10 mins in a large covered pot with about an inch of water, not touching the dough, until done and cooked through.If using a pressure cooker, don't use the whistle.
Idiyappams are usually served hot with  spicy egg masala or a coconut milk based curry/stew or even with chickpeas. If your prefer your sweet to savoury, you can soak these noolappams in coconut or regular cow's milk and sprinkle sugar on top.

Basics:How to make Mung Dal/Lentil Soup the right way

We love our lentils, and to me a bowl of dal with rice is the perfect comfort food. Maybe because my mom used to pack dal and rice, with just a bit of ghee or pickle to school in my lunch box almost everyday. It is packed with protein and should be on every non-meat eaters meal plan, and is just plain delcious, in a homey non fussy way!
Dal is served in every home in every part of India and makes an appearance daily if not atleast once a week. In Kerala it is more commonly made with toor dar or split pigeon peas, though I prefer mung dal because it is easier to digest, soothing to the stomach and is considered "non-gas making" (Haha:) but mostly because mung dal takes less time to cook I think.
I have always thought that I make a pretty decent dal until I tasted my mom-in-law's dal and that totally blew me away. I had to make sure that I learnt the technique behind her perfect bowls of dal during her stay here. No garlic, no ginger, no bothersome frying of onions- the secret to her recipe is toasting the dal before cooking it. The result is a simple yet wonderfully flavorful, creamy and wholesome dish.

And of course I had to share it with you! This simple  recipe is for the beginners to Indian cooking. Dal is pretty much a staple and this delicately flavorful dish is great served as a soup on it's own, or rice. I found that it is a perfect accompaniment to my loaf of freshly baked healthy bread. So Ms just-moved-out-of-parents-home-into-new-apartment-with-roomies/husband & kitchen this is for you! Also if you like me have been making dal for years but thought there must be something missing, here's how to make dal the right way!

Dal/ Lentil soup
Recipe source: My mother-in-law

  • 2 cups mung dal
  • 4 green chillies
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 whole medium tomatoes (if using a pressure cooker no need to cut) or 3 tbsp tomato paste.
  • 2 tsp salt ( 1 tsp for each cup of dhal)
  • 1/2 tsp chilly powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder 
  • 1/2 tsp oil
For tempering
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4 curry leaves

  • Wash the dal quickly (without soaking) and drain the mung dal for about half an hour until the water has drained out completely. 
  • Put a pressure cooker/ heavy bottom pan or saucepan  on medium heat and add the dal, stirring occasionally to toast it. 
  • (This step while it may take up an extra 10-15v mins is important and adds greatly to the flavour so skip only if you are in a hurry. You can also toast your dal ahead and store in an air tight container to save time later)
  • Lower heat to low and continue to toast the dhal until it is crisp, crunchy and a light brown colour.
  • Final test- when chewed the toasted dal should make a "krr krr" sound, indicating that it is well toasted.
  • Make sure you don't over toast. Also make sure to stir occasionally so that the dhal at the bottom does not get burnt.
  • While the dal is toasting, chop the onions finely and slit green chillies lengthwise.
  • Add the onions, green chillies, salt, chilly powder and turmeric and 1/2 tsp oil and mix well, until the masalas are well mixed with the dal.
  • Add 6-7 cups of boiling water, and the tomato paste/ tomatoes (If using a pressure cooker, no need to chop as they will explode and break into tiny pieces while the dal cooks )
  • Cover and cook until the dal is soft. ( if using a pressure cooker, just until the steam begins to build- just about 5 mins. Do not wait for a whistle else it will be overcooked and pasty)
Prepare the tempering:
  • Take a small saucepan and heat 1 tsp oil.
  • Add the mustard seeds and wait until they sputter. Turn off the heat and add the cumin seeds, curry leaves, and red chillies. 
  • Add the tempering to the cooked dal and mix well.
  • Let it simmer for about 5 mins.
This delicious bowl of simple fragrant dal is going over to Legume love affair.

    Chocolate Nutella Macarons

    It's been a while since my macaron making classes and I have been dying to try making them all by my self at home. I just assumed that since we made such beauties at the class, making them at home would be a breeze as well. How wrong I was!
    First I had trouble finding almond meal so I ground up some almonds in my blender and had some delicious flat free form almond cookies, but no macarons since grinding nuts makes them oily and hence makes the batter too liquid-y. Note: if you are grinding the almonds yourself, check frequently to ensure you don't grind them so much they start releasing oils.
    After T finally found almond meal at our local Trader Joe's (They are in the nut section in case you're looking-not in the baking section and ask for almond meal and not almond flour!)  I set about aging the eggwhites for a long 24 hours on my kitchen counter and had just a little more success. They weren't smooth and shiny on top, nor did they have the characteristic ruffle-like underside "feet", and they do look more like whoopie pies than macarons but sandwiched with a dollop of Nutella, they were delicious. ( Nutella makes anything better :) I think not sifting the rather coarse almond meal enough caused my downfall. Maybe I should have pulsed it in the food processor to make it finer.
    Macaron pundits may have also raised an eyebrow when I eschewed the pastry bag in favour of a spritz cookie gun fitted with the icing tip. I had a mess last time after my overfull pastry bag started leaking from the other end and I must say I think the cookie gun is way easier to handle-using my free hand to guide the gun, making sure I was holding it at 90 degrees.
    I used Namthip's recipe from class. It is very similar to the one posted on her site except halved.

    Chocolate Macarons
    Recipe source: Namthip of Bonbini

    Makes 80 shells (I halved the recipe)

    For the shell

    • 140 g almond flour
    • 10 g cocoa powder, Dutch-processed 
    • 200 g powdered sugar
    • 45 g egg whites, aged
    • 30 g sugar
    • 55 g egg whites, aged

    Method for the shell
    1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    2. Sift almond flour, cocoa powder and powdered sugar together in a big bowl, discard the solids.
    (If the almond flour or meal is too coarse, pulse in your food processor until fine and powdery- but careful! don't over grind or you'll make it oily)
    3. Create “Mass” by folding almond flour, cocoa powder, powdered sugar and 45 g of egg whites together with a big spoon. The mass will look lumpy. That's ok
    4. To make French meringue: whip egg whites in a mixer on medium speed to soft peaks. Slowly pour sugar in three additions, continue whipping to medium peaks. Basically the peak should stand up at 90 degrees. Another way to test us to carefully turn the bowl upside down. If the whites stay in the bowl without falling out that mean's they're done.
    5. Fold in 25% of meringue into “Mass” to lighten the mixture.
    6. Fold in the rest of meringue carefully in circular motions, cutting the batter to incorporate the whites well, until the batter has a "magma' like consistency- basically if you put a drop of the batter on a plate, it should sink into itself and not have a peak. If it has a peak, fold a little more. Don't overfold or it'll be too runny.
    7. Place into a piping bag with plain tip # 3, pipe 1" diameter circles on sheet pan lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. ( I used a spritz cookie gun fitted with the icing tip since I haven't quite mastered double ended squirty icing bags)
    8. Rap the tray on the counter to get rid of air bubbles.Rest for an hour to form skins.
    9. Place another baking tray under the tray with the batter (doubling the tray-this helps to ensure the underside of the macs don't get overbaked) Lower the oven temperature to 320 degrees, bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating the trays half way through.
    10. Let them cool on a silicone baking mat, then remove and sandwich them with the filling.
    ( If you are having trouble removing the parchment paper from the tray, keep it in the freezer for a few mins and then you should be able to peel the parchment paper off easily)

    I was thinking of making a Nutella ganache but then decided I couldn't wait so just spooned a dab of Nutella and sandwiched my macs. Although this kind of overpowered the delicate flavour of the almond flour shells, I can't say I regret it. Who can resist the chocolate-hazelnut combination and creamy texture of Nutella?It's a firm favourite right through from childhood. We didn't bother to spread it on anything but licked spoonfuls with sheer delight. Well not much has changed! I have been wanting to make a Nutella filled macaron for ages. I would like to try a hazelnut macaron the next time though, after I have had a little more success with the basic recipe!

    Although a failure, I'm sending my feetless, pockmarked macs to this month's Macattack hosted by the amazing Deeba and Jamie at the Mactweets blog.

    Mad about macarons? Meet others who are obsessed and hear what they have to say about Technique and Macronnage and those blasted feet!

    Helen's inspiring recipes
    David Lebowitz's recipes and links for further reading
    Coco's tips and pics
    Duncan's exhaustive notes and step by step photos
    Meeta's quick notes and tips
    Deeba's macaron adventures