Wednesday, November 30, 2011

International Desserts, Month Three

This month, we taste two of my favorite Indian desserts: Kheer, and Gulab Jamun.  Kheer is otherwise known as Indian Rice Pudding.  Gulab Jamun are fried balls of milk solids, soaked in a sugar/honey syrup.  These are both common items on Indian lunch buffets, which I happen to love.  I'm not a big fan of curry, but there are so many other Indian food options that I do love, so Indian food will always be one of my favorites. 

This post is actually a super bargain deal!! You get not one, but THREE different recipes!  Okay, one of the recipes is actually for something you have to make in order to make the Gulab Jamun, but that's just semantics, really.

Since I had never made any of these recipes, or really much of anything like them, this was a learning process for me.  I also relied on what I knew these desserts were supposed to taste and look like, based on what they are like in the restaurants.  The kheer was pretty simple, and came out just as I expected.  The Gulab Jamun was a different story.  I'm pretty sure I messed up the khova - as I don't think it was supposed to come out brown, like this:

But, since I wasn't sure if it was good or not, I went ahead and made the balls out of it.  They came out okay at first.  The taste was pretty good, but they weren't as solid as they normally are when you get them in a restaurant.  And, they pretty much fell apart after a few hours in the sugar syrup.  So, that was a quasi-fail.  It's a good thing I only made a half-batch, so I only had six golf ball-sized balls. 

The kheer was creamy and wonderful.  It took a little longer than I was expecting to thicken up, but I just remained patient and let it do it's thing, and that worked out in the end.  I ate it warm the first night, and I've been enjoying it right out of the fridge since then. (BONUS - the hubster does not like kheer, or really any rice-based dessert I've ever made, so I get to eat all of it! Score!)

I sort of cobbled these recipes together from various internet sources.  I kind of took bits from one recipe, combined with bits from another one, and made sure I used recipes that had ingredients I knew I could find (no rose water) at a regular store.  For me, with the exception of the whole milk, I had all of the ingredients in the house, so that was definitely a bonus.

Let's start with the Khova:


1.5 liters (6 cups) whole milk

Bring the milk to a boil in a deep, heavy-bottom nonstick pan.  Once it comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer the milk, stirring occasionally until the milk completely thickens to something that looks like the texture of ricotta cheese.  This should take about 1.5 hours.  Set aside to cool.

Gulab Jamun

1 cup khova
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of baking soda
oil, for frying

Sugar Syrup
1 cup water
1 cup sugar, honey, or agave, or a combo of the 3

Mix khova, all-purpose flour, and baking soda, and a little water (start with a tablespoon).  Knead this mixture gently to form a dough.  Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.  This is a good time to heat up your oil for frying.

Meanwhile, make the sugar syrup. Combine water and sugar in a small sauce pan and heat until the sugar has dissolved.  Allow the syrup to simmer for 10 minutes, until thread consistency has been reached.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

Roll small balls of the dough. You can make either round balls, or little ovals - it's your choice.   Fry in the hot oil for a few minutes, until golden brown.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.  After the balls are all cooked, put them in the sugar syrup, and allow to soak for 3 to 4 hours (or be like me, and wait for 20 minutes and then dig in.)


1/3 cup of basmati or other white rice (I used jasmine because it's what I had in the house)
1 liter milk
1 teaspoon clarified butter
4 cardamom pods
1/4 to 1/3 cup honey (depending on how sweet you want the pudding)
2 tablespoons golden raisins (I skipped these)
2 tablespoons slivered almonds, lightly roasted (I used way more of these)

Wash the rice. Over medium heat, heat the clarified butter.  Add the rice and stir until it turns translucent and a light pink or tan color; about 10 minutes.

Stir in the milk. Bring to a boil over medium high heat.

Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour until the milk reduces to about a third of what you started out with.

Peel the cardamom (this was seriously the hardest part of the entire recipe). Using a spice grinder or mortar and pestle, crush the cardamom. Stir in the cardamom, honey, raisins and almonds.  Serve warm, at room temp, or cool. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fun to say, and to eat.

Clafoutis.  Just say it.  Cla-foo-tee.  Fun, right?  Because of the name, and because of what it is, I have wanted to make a clafoutis for a while, I just never got around to it.  A clafoutis is a custard, and it is a thing of wonder.  So light. So fluffy.  Most clafoutis that I have seen have had berries in them, and they were a summer thing.

One of my favorite blogs, Gina’s Skinny Recipes, recently had a recipe for a pumpkin hazelnut clafoutis.  I have always had a good experience with her recipes, so I figured I would try this one out.  And, I happened to be looking for pumpkin recipes.  A couple of weeks ago, some friends gave me a pumpkin! I think it was actually a leftover from a pumpkin chucking thing they do around Halloween. But, I was happy to have it, and promised to do good things with it.  I roasted the seeds (which were devoured almost immediately), and then I turned the rest into pumpkin puree.  The one pumpkin (of average size) made me almost 6 cups of puree!  Needless to say, I will be making many more pumpkin desserts.  

But I digress.  

I am so happy I made this clafoutis.  It was very easy to put together, and so, so tasty.  It is sweetened with agave nectar, and the finished product is not super sweet.  Gina suggests it be an alternative to pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving.  Um, yeah, no.  No one gets between me and pumpkin pie.  Not it they want to keep all of their fingers.  But, this stuff is tasty, even if it won’t be replacing pumpkin pie for me this year.  You should try it.

One quick note: the original recipe calls for the seeds from one vanilla bean.  I didn’t have that, and those things are kind of expensive.  You can substitute an extra teaspoon of vanilla extra.  Or, I have vanilla bean paste, which is what I used.  The paste is vanilla beans in a vanilla goo, and you can use if 1:1 for vanilla extract.  It’s kind of pricey, so I only use it for things where it would actually make a difference, like this.  So, I used 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste.  

Pumpkin Hazelnut Clafoutis
Serves 10

3 large eggs
2 large egg whites
10 tbsp light agave nectar
½ cup unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted
pinch of salt
1 cup 1% milk
1 tsp vanilla extra
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
⅛ tsp cinnamon
⅛ tsp nutmeg
⅛ tsp ginger
⅔ cup pumpkin puree
baking spray
⅓ cup chopped lightly toasted hazelnuts

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Spray a 9-inch pie plate with baking spray. Add the hazelnuts to the dish.

Place the eggs, egg whites, agave, milk, vanillla extract, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt in a blender.  Blend until smooth, about 30 seconds.

Add the pumpkin puree and blend well.

Add the flour and pule until well combined.

Pour the batter into the pie dish.

Bake for 15 minutes, the lower the heat to 375 and bake until the center is just set, about 12 minutes.

Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Minty Chocolate Goodness

Sometimes I buy random baking items when I see them in the store, with no purpose for them in mind.  A while back, a coworker introduced me Andes mint baking chips.  It’s a bag of little bits of Andes mints, all ready to be tossed into cookies, or brownies, or whatever.  When I brought the bag home, the Hubster threatened to eat the whole bag before I had a chance to use them.  But, I hid them in the back of the cabinet, and they stayed there safely until I remembered I had them and used them for these cookies.

I was originally going to whip up a batch of brownies, and toss the Andes chips in the brownies.  But I wanted to make something new (to me).  I found these cookies in my googly reader and I was off.  One of the selling points for this recipe was that I had all of the ingredients on hand (well, basically).  I didn’t have any extra-bittersweet chocolate, as the recipe calls for, so I just used 5 oz of semi-sweet chocolate chips.  

The batter for these cookies is a bit misleading at first.  It is very loose, like a brownie batter. But, after it sits for a few minutes, it really does thicken up.  I put the batter in the fridge for about 10 minutes, and then kept it there while each batch baked, but that’s mostly because that’s what I always do.  

Even though the directions are a little different than you normally see in a cookie, they are pretty simple.  Beating them for 10 minutes at first seems to take FOR.EV.ER, but other than that, they are a snap to make.  Give them a try!

Chocolate Mint Chip Cookies
Source: Bakers Royale, adapted from Epicurious
Makes 28 cookies
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
⅛ teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
⅔ cup sugar
½ tablespoon espresso granules
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 ounces Andes Mint Baking Chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place eggs, sugar, espresso granules and vanilla in a bowl and beat on high for 10 minutes. Add in baking powder and salt and beat on high for another 5 minutes.

Place the butter in the top of a double boiler, and add the semi-sweet and unsweetened chocolate. Heat until the butter and chocolate melt. Remove from the heat.  

Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until partially combined (streaks will be visible). Add the flour to the batter and gently fold it in. Fold in the Andes chips. Set aside the batter for five minutes to thicken.

Drop a tablespoon of batter onto the prepared baking sheets and bake until puffed and cracked, 9-11 minutes.  Cool on the baking sheet a few minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely.