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Homework # 12 – Ginger Bread – Christmas Special -All is well that ends well!

Another year is just slipping by. Before you know it it’s Christmas. That time of the year when you have the chance to change your attitude and shrug away the less exciting bits of the year. Well, Almost. I need the change. And as I put up my tree in the studio, I decide to make something that will fill the air with Christmas spices and ginger and all things nice – Ginger Bread. I can’t think of a better way to bring in the Christmas Spirit. I want to make it everyday through this season. Here’s a recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson, but since I don’t like my bread too sticky it’s more my version of a cake which I can dunk in my tea.

Eat it as soon as it’s out of the oven. And watch how the year gone suddenly seems to be ending on a high.
My Ginger bread squares !

My Ginger bread square

Ginger Bread
Recipe type: Bake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 250 gms flour
  • 150 gms butter
  • 100 gms honey
  • 100 gms golden syrup
  • 100 gms brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 tsp dried ginger powder
  • 1 tsp 5 spice powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp soda mixed in 30 ml warm water
  • 200 ml milk
  • 2 eggs
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 170 degree C
  2. Melt the butter, sugar, honey and the golden syrup along with all the spices and ginger. Don't bring this to a boil just enough on slow heat till its all a homogenous mixture
  3. Take it off the heat and keep aside till it cools .
  4. Add the milk, eggs and the dissolved soda
  5. Add the flour into the wet mixture and use your beater if needed just for 30 seconds till it comes together. Don't overheat this.
  6. Pour into the square mold lined with paper and bake for 45-50 mins
  7. Transfer to a cooling rack and cut into slices of your choice and dunk it in some tea and feel the spirit of Christmas around the corner

 

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Homework #8 – Pear and Cinnamon Cake with Meringue

I love Pears! They bake so well. They don’t fight for attention in a cake, they pair so well with chocolate…well, I can go on and on. In Mumbai I find them all year round so that makes it an important fruit for bakers to work with. Try this recipe it won’t disappoint.

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Pear and Cinnamon Cake with Meringue
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: Cake
 
Ingredients
  • 60 gms butter, softened
  • 60 gms sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 60 gms plain flour
  • 2 pears, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp cinnamon powder
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • For Meringue:
  • 2 egg whites
  • 100 gms sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees.
  2. In a bowl whisk together butter and sugar well, add vanilla and the lemon rind.
  3. Add the egg and beat it using a hand blender until light and fluffy.
  4. Fold in the flour and the cinnamon. make sure you sift them (flour and cinnamon) together so that its free of any un-ground cinnamon.
  5. Pour the batter into a round cake tin (20 cm) lined with parchment paper.
  6. Put the pear slices down into the batter
  7. Bake this for about 10 minutes at 180 degrees
  8. Bring this out and let it cool just a bit. Now work on the meringue
  9. Using your kitchen aid beat the egg whites stiff and add the sugar a little at a time.
  10. Add the meringue on top of the baked cake.
  11. Bake the cake in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius until light golden for about 15 minutes.
  12. This cake looks and tastes so overwhelmingly warm and delicious. It doesn’t need anything to pair with it.

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Homework #6 – Classic Financiers

The financier (pronounced fee-nahn-see-AY) often shows up on petit four plates all over France. There are many stories about how the financier got its name so I’m sharing just one of many. The financier was created by a baker named Lasne, whose bakery on the Rue St. Denis was near the Bourse, the financial center of Paris. Presumably, the rich little cake was named for the rich financiers who frequented his bakery. The cake was baked in rectangular molds, the shape of gold bars. I like this story!

It’s deceptively simple, but perhaps like all things French, so damn refined! It’s a staple at almost all the fine pastry shops across France and now they seem to be pretty popular almost across all the fine pastry shops in the world. It seems like an ordinary little tea cake but that’s why I said it’s so deceptive; it’s so different from a cake.

For one it appears in all kinds of shapes – round in some places and rectangular in the others (see the molds I found on my trip to France).

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Second it’s so damn versatile – you can make them all so entirely different; drop pistachios in some, pecans or strawberries in others, dark chocolate nibs in some or mix and match in some…

Refined as it may seem it is relatively easy to make. A few tricks to keep in mind and you are home.

What you need is a whisk, a bowl, a pan and some French wine and some Jazz. The last two ingredients are not for the financier but for your soul.

A few steps make or break the cake. The first, browning the butter is what defines its flavour and adds depth to whatever the base nut you are using (almonds are the most traditional but hazelnuts or even cashews work just as well). You need to heat the butter over medium low heat until it begins to brown and smell nutty. Undercooking it is equally damaging for it will lack the necessary aroma.

The second trick is to mix the batter as little as possible. It should be stirred until just blended. If you stir too much, the gluten in the flour will get overworked and the cake will be tough.

The third trick they say is to rest the batter before baking. A few hours in the refrigerator and the flavours will harmonize. I have never been able to wait.

And one last bit; you have to eat them fresh. Now that’s not much of a problem, is it?

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Classic Financiers
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: Cake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 20
 
Recipe adapted from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel
Ingredients
  • 120 gms icing sugar
  • 40 gms flour
  • 60 gms almond meal
  • 100 gms egg whites (egg whites from about 3 large eggs)
  • 100 gms unsalted butter (browned)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Butter 12 financier molds or a mini-muffin tin. Refrigerate buttered tin.
  3. Sift together sugar, flour and almond meal into a medium bowl.
  4. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add in previously beaten egg whites; whisk together by hand until ingredients have been combined.
  5. To brown the butter, melt butter in a sauce pan over low to medium heat until bits begin browning. Continue whisking slowly to prevent browned bits from settling. Strain melted butter through a cheesecloth.
  6. While still hot, slowly pour browned butter into batter, simultaneously whisking the batter until combined.
  7. Evenly distribute batter among molds or mini-muffin tin wells, leaving about ⅛" of space from the rim.
  8. Lower oven temperature to 170 degrees, and bake on the center rack for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
  9. Cool unmolded financiers on a wire rack.

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Homework #4 – Cranberries and Mixed Nut Scones

A scone can be described as a single serving cake or a quick bread. It’s a traditional English tea time treat; I like them for breakfast though. You can call it a kind of pastry since they are made with the same ingredients as short crust albeit with different proportions.

But really scones are so versatile. You can add your favourite ingredients to them. Most dried fruits pair well and so does chocolate. But, when I started figuring out the best way to make them I came across at least 15 different versions – add buttermilk, no butter milk, add egg, no egg, self raising flour, regular flour… it’s really endless. I tried a few variations myself and settled for this.

I didn’t have clotted cream at home so I just ate them up with butter – a generous dollop of it – and some jam.

Scones ready to go in the oven

Scones ready to go in the oven

Cranberries and Mixed Nut Scones
Recipe type: Bake
Cuisine: English
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
  • 450 gms plain flour
  • 200 gms castor sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 175 gms chilled butter
  • 200 gms fresh cream
  • 150 gms mixed nuts
  • 100 gms cranberries
  • Lime zest
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Rub lime zest with sugar (don't forget this step, it makes all the difference)
  4. Rub in the butter in the dry ingredients until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Work quickly with your fingertips, you don't want the butter to melt.
  5. Add mixed nuts and cranberries.
  6. Add cream and work the dough until it comes together. It's okay if it isn't very cohesive - just as long as it holds together. Add more cream if necessary
  7. Divide the dough into two. Gather to make a ball
  8. Roll out to a thickness of 2.5-3 cms. Using a pastry cutter, cut into rounds or into triangles – like cutting a pizza.
  9. Brush with milk wash or egg wash
  10. Bake for 45 mins until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.
  11. Serve with clotted cream or butter and jam.

 

Scones

Scones

 

 

Homework #3 – Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread

If you want something warm, not too sweet, and made from scratch this is the recipe. The classic combination of apple and rosemary marries in a buttermilk and olive oil batter lightly flavoured with a hint of warm spices. Don’t want a loaf? You can bake it in muffin tins for muffins or, dollop it in a hot pan coated with oil and make pancakes. This batter will work for all three. I highly suggest trying it as pancakes.

Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread

Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread

Apple Rosemary Buttermilk Bread
Recipe type: Bake
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 Loaf
 
Ingredients
  • 125 gms all-purpose flour
  • 50 gms granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp finely minced fresh rosemary
  • ⅛ tsp cinnamon
  • ⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 125 gms buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 63 gms olive oil
  • ¼ tsp vanilla extract
  • 115 gms diced apple (1 small honey crisp, peeled and cored)
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 170 degrees
  2. In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the first six ingredients to thoroughly and evenly combine.
  3. In another mixing bowl combine buttermilk, egg, olive oil and vanilla extract and whisk them together lightly with a fork.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir gently to just combine so that there is no dry left. Don't t worry about lumps, and be careful to not over mix.
  5. Gently fold in the apples.
  6. Lightly grease your loaf pan and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean and the top is golden brown.
  7. Best served warm with a pat of good, lightly salted butter.