At the Family Favourites workshop


Pineapple cheesecake
Ask 10 people what their favourite desserts are, 7 of them will tell you they like a chocolate based one.

And the pineapple is a favourite fruit. As this pineapple cheesecake will testify to. It drew the most amount of oohs and aahs.  

Black forest gateau
What is it that makes the black forest cake so popular?

Lemon curd  and chocolate buttercream cupcakes
And cupcakes, I think, will never go out of style.

Chocolate truffle cake
But for me, the timeless and absolutely decadent chocolate truffle cake with layers of gooey ganache will always be a favourite.

Next workshop on November 15th, 10.30 am- 2.30 pm.

The Christmas Bakes workshop


Well, this is what finally happened at the workshop on Christmas Bakes-

We set the pudding alight!

But before that, the ladies

 made some mincemeat tarts for Santa,

baked Christmas tree cookies for Rudolph to hide behind

and made a fruit filled golden fruit cake.

I do hope they had a good Christmas!!

Many thanks, Vidya for the photographs.

Family favourites- a workshop


Always wanted to make a layered cake with ganache but not sure how to go about it?

At an upcoming workshop "Family Favourites", learn to make a  chocolate truffle cake or turn it into a cupcake, a decadent black forest gateau, lemon cupcakes and a glazed pineapple cheesecake.

The workshop will be on Saturday, November 15th, 10.30am - 2.30 pm at Kottivakkam.

Merry Christmas


At last, the baking's done. Fruit cakes and cookies packed and dispatched, my kitchen clean and gleaming, and the madness of the last month now but a memory...

...Not really. I had a fruit cake left over from last week's workshop. There were times when I was tempted to slice it and have it with a cup of tea.

Yesterday, I decided to ice it. And go the whole hog while at it! So, made some marzipan and I had this conversation with myself whether to cover the whole cake or only the top. Finally the whole cake got a coat of it. I also noticed the family giving me strange looks. Wonder why...

An overnight drying( I know it's not enough) and then a coat of royal icing. The remaining marzipan was rolled out and cut into 3 trees and stuck together, dried overnight and outlined with royal icing. I also managed to pipe out a star for the top of the tree.

A few holly leaves and berries with flower paste, a red ribbon and an unexpected discovery of a packet of santas completed my cake.

Here's wishing all of you a very merry Christmas and a joyous new 2013.


Christmas Bakes- a workshop


It's never too late to bake a cake for Christmas. And a lot of other goodies, as well!!

So, at a workshop on Christmas Bakes, what's on the menu?

A golden fruit cake. This one's a breeze to make and tastes absolutely yummy.

Then, what's Christmas without mince tarts? No, no, not the meaty ones but tarts that are filled with fruits and spices and baked in sweet pastry cases. And topped with a golden star.

Christmas tree cookies are a perennial favourite. Making these cookies is a good way of keeping kids busy during the holidays.

And finally, a microwaved Christmas pudding. Not been able to make a Christmas pudding yet? Don't despair, this one takes 10 minutes to cook and is loaded with fruit. Put the pudding in the microwave to cook as you sit down for the Christmas meal. And of course, don't forget to make a wish as you stir the batter.

The workshop is on December 13th, 10.30am-2.30pm.

A gift for Christmas


 Look what Santa brought me... early Christmas present.

After the most boring fruit and veg I've been seeing in vegetable stores day in and day out, this is a real treat.

Yellow baby tomatoes, mini red tomatoes from Spain, a Thai pineapple, kaffir limes and their aromatic leaves, krachai, Thai red chilles, gem lettuce, a red potato, endives, a soursop, a big juicy tomato, a lotus stem and the yummiest of all, a punnet of blueberries from Argentina.

The tomatoes and lettuce were my lunch today. Tossed through with a bit of French dressing.

Thanks, Satya from

Baked lemon cheesecake


This sure calls for a celebration. 10,000 hits so far. The baby steps I've taken in my blogging journey have been full of glitches and ditches. I'm still not sure how the blogging works, but if there's one thing I've learnt, it's that I do like to write.

So to celebrate, here's a recipe with an ingredient that fortunately, is available throughout the year.

We don't get lemons in Chennai. Well, maybe tiny ones. And  only sometimes. Honestly, I prefer the taste of limes, love their face puckering sourness and their fresh clean scent. A bit of lime rind and juice mixed through the batter of a plain butter cake gives it just that little bit of an oomph factor.

But when lemons make an appearance, this delectably tangy cheesecake is what I love to make. The recipe is from an old magazine and every time I want to make it, I find I don't have enough cream cheese. Anyway, I bumble along with substitutions and tweaks and it has never failed me.

Today, too, I did not have enough cream cheese so I made up the shortfall with hung curd - the homemade version of cream cheese.

And sour cream? Where in Chennai does one find this secret ingredient? Most of us just mix a little lime juice into cream and voilĂ  - sour cream!

And it does work!

However, I skipped the sour cream today because my home made cream cheese was quite sour and didn't need any more acidity. And instead of sour cream, I used Amul cream. Also, I find that the addition of a little hung curd makes the cheesecake a little lighter in texture and not as dense as an all cream cheese mixture would have.

I also add some sultanas into the cheesecake. When you bite into these  plump, golden beauties, their sweetness and juiciness are a welcome contrast to the tangy smoothness of the cheesecake.

So here is my version of the baked lemon cheesecake:

Baked lemon cheesecake

Ingredients for the base
170 gm Marie biscuits
90 gm butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar

Blitz the biscuits in a food processor, add the butter, blitz again, mix through the sugar and half blitz it.
Spoon the mix into the base of an 8" loose bottom pan, pat the crumbs to form a firm base.
Chill in the freezer for about an hour.
(If you don't want the sides of the cheesecake to be dark, line the inside of the tin with strips of parchment paper or foil.)

Ingredients for filling
2 small lemons (or limes. Or 1 large lemon.)
500 gm cream cheese ( I used 300 gm cream cheese and 200 gm hung curd)
150 gm sour cream ( I used Amul cream)
180 gm sugar
2 eggs
3/4 tsp cornflour
1 tsp vanilla essence
40 gm sultanas

Grate rind of lemons and extract juice.
Place rind and juice into a mixing bowl, add in cream cheese, sour cream, sugar, eggs, cornflour, essence and blend well. (I used a wire whisk.)
Stir through the sultanas and pour into the prepared tin.
Place the cheesecake into a pre heated 180°C oven.
Bake for about 50 minutes till just set.
Switch off the oven, keep the oven door ajar and leave the cheesecake in it till it comes to room temperature.
Put it into the fridge to chill overnight.
For the decor on top, use a zester to take off strips of  lemon rind. Slice the lemon thin- you probably need only the middle of the lemon. Arrange the slices in a pattern on top of the cheesecake halfway through baking.

You need to eat a slice of this. Real soon.

Readying for Christmas


A little over a month to Christmas.

The biggest job this month was to prepare the fruits that go into the Christmas cake. I buy vine fruits- currants, raisins and sultanas throughout the year, wash and dry them and by early November, the remaining fruits are bought, cleaned, chopped and then readied to be mixed with spices and all the other ingredients that put the spirit of Christmas into fruit cakes!

Are more people born in the last 4 months of the year?
I would think so, at least in my family. A look at my family's website shows most birthdays are in the months of October and November.

I have 2 representatives of this trend at home- the son and the husband. In the midst of fruit cake preparation, I managed to bake a Kahlua mocha mousse cake.

A chocolate sponge cake sandwiched with coffee mousse and almond nibs. A coat of chocolate ganache to encase the whole.

 Yum yum!!

Cook Italian Part 2


The second part of "Cook Italian" was held last week. The power cut played spoilsport again. In spite of this glitch, we managed to finish the class on time.

Gnocchi with lots of Gorgonzola sauce

Spinach canelloni

Mushroom and two cheese calzone

Apple butterscotch pie

Buon appetito!!


Cook Italian workshop


Last week was hectic-a birthday, an anniversary and a workshop. For most of the week, dinner was simple Italian because I was preparing for the Italian workshop. I had calls from folks who wanted to know if it was going to be the baked cheesy kind of food. I like baked cheesy kind of food but what I was going to demonstrate was the healthier kind. With home made pasta.

Homemade fettuccine with pesto
Garlic bread

Linguine with salsa pomodori

Cherry cheese pie

The second part of the workshop is on October 27th.

Mushroom and two cheese calzone, gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce, spinach cannelloni and an apple butterscotch pie.

Mamma mia!

Pepper, parmesan and herb loaf


Ahh! The joys of blogging! October 16th was World Bread Day (I didn't know there was such a day till I became a regular on Facebook). One of the groups I'm a member of had invited people to bake bread, any bread.

I almost gave it a miss because of my crazy schedule but then decided that since I like bread so much, I should at least try to get one done.

But what? So many had baked focaccia, some had baked pull apart rolls, many had done twisted loaves. Flipping through books and the Internet didn't help, not when you're under a bit of pressure and the 1 hour scheduled power cut at 3 pm was drawing nearer...

Oh! Got it! There was a nice picture of a loaf that had herbs and parmesan cheese.  OK! Quick, measure the flour, the yeast... wait a minute, wait a minute! Why follow the same recipe?

And so this recipe was born. I was intrigued by the parmesan cheese. What would the loaf taste like? Umami? Or would the rosemary mask that taste? How much could I use to allow the flavour of both cheese and herbs come through?

In the meantime, the cake was ready to go into the oven. Yes, in the middle of all this, I had to bake a cake. I was aiming to finish baking the cake and then popping the bread into the oven and have it all be done by 3 pm. Alas, that was not to be.

The flour was weighed out, along with all the other dry ingredients. Herbs were chopped, cheese grated, the processor made short work of kneading and then the dough was ensconced in a glass bowl for proofing. The cake was still baking and half an hour before the dreaded power cut, I decided that there was no point in shaping the loaf and leaving it to proof for more than an hour.

The dough was through with the first rising so I pushed out all the air and bunged both dough and bowl in the fridge.

Half an hour before the end of the power cut, I brought out the bowl. The dough has risen beautifully but from past experience, I knew that the bread wouldn't necessarily look pretty.

I shaped the dough into 2 loaves. Scored the tops and by then, the power was back. Just my luck- the voltage was low and by the time the thermostat climbed to the required temperature, the dough had over proofed.

But the loaf tasted really nice. Freshly baked, the flavour of the herbs shone through. Could have done with a little more thyme. But a couple of hours later, the herbs had toned down and the umami flavour was beginning to wake up. With little nips from the pepper. Ooh, nice.

Pepper, parmesan and herb loaf

500 gm flour
1 tsp gluten
1 tsp bread improver
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
40 gm soft butter
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 gm fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
85 gm grated parmesan cheese
225 gm warm water

Sift flour, gluten, improver (both optional) and salt together onto a worktop.
Mix through the yeast and sugar.
Make a well in the centre, pour in most of the water and combine into a dough.
Mix in butter, pepper, herbs and the cheese.
Knead well till the dough is soft, smooth and springy. Add more water if necessary to get to this consistency.
(In case you are using a bread maker or a processor, follow the instructions till you reach this step.)
Place dough in a big greased bowl, cover the top with clingfilm and leave to rise for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or till the dough has doubled in size.
Remove the clingfilm, punch down the dough to release the trapped air.
Place the dough on a lightly floured worktop, knead lightly for about half a minute.
Divide dough into 2, dust a little more flour on the worktop and roll each dough into a 10" log.
Place on a baking tray. Score the tops lightly and leave to prove for about 20 minutes or till doubled.
Spray a little water over the loaves, sprinkle a little flour over the tops and bake at 200°C for about 20 minutes or till the loaves have baked to a golden colour.
Take the loaves out of the oven.
With mittened hands, turn them over and tap the base. It should sound hollow, indicating they are done.

Pandan chiffon cake


I always have a pot of pandan growing in my balcony. The plant is easy to grow, looks a little untidy but is an essential for a Singaporean kitchen. The dark green sword like leaves look pretty unremarkable; when they are added into a pot of Basmati rice, the flavour the rice takes on is amazing.

Pandan leaves

Making a pandan chiffon cake is another way of using this leaf. Here, the leaf is used for both colour and flavour. To extract the juice, you'll need about 5 leaves. Wash them well, cut them into small bits after removing the central vein, then put them in a blender with very little water. Pulse it till the leaves are ground, then strain it through a piece of muslin. Ready to use pandan paste which has both the flavour and colour is also available in stores in Singapore.

My recipe for pandan chiffon cake uses oil and coconut milk.
You can use canned coconut milk but if you prefer making your own, grate half a coconut, add a little warm water to it and blitz it in a blender for a couple of seconds. Pass it through a piece of muslin and squeeze out all the liquid. It should measure about 200 ml.

The cake is unbelievably soft and light. Pandan is of course an acquired taste and one can get used to its taste soon enough.

Left: stiffly beaten egg whites. Right: foamy egg yolks 

I use 7 eggs for this recipe, they need to be separated and to save washing up, I whip up the whites with half the sugar first, also adding the cream of tartar. Then the yolks are beaten with the remaining sugar, a little more cream of tartar, oil, pandan juice, vanilla essence and coconut milk. At this stage, a little green colouring can be added.

The flour and baking powder are gently folded into the yolk mixture, then the stiffly beaten egg whites are folded in.

The batter is poured into an ungreased tube pan and baked. If you don't have a tube pan, you can use a ring pan but of course it won't look like a chiffon cake.

After the cake is baked, the tube pan is turned over a wire rack and the cake left to cool.

This supersoft cake can be stored at room temperature for a day, after which it has to be refrigerated.

Pandan chiffon cake

150 gm flour
1/2 tsp baking powder

7 egg whites
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
100 gm sugar

7 egg yolks
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
100 gm sugar

60 gm vegetable oil
3 tbsp fresh pandan juice or about 1/2 tsp pandan flavouring
1 tsp vanilla essence
200 ml thick coconut milk
A little green food colour (optional)

Sieve together the flour and baking powder, keep aside.
Put the egg whites, cream of tartar and sugar into a mixing bowl and beat with an electric beater till stiff.
In another bowl, place the egg yolks, cream of tartar and sugar and beat till light and foamy.
Add in the oil, pandan juice or flavouring, vanilla essence, coconut milk and the food colour. Stir it in well into the yolk foam, then gently blend in the sifted flour.
Pour into an ungreased 9" tube pan and bake at 175°C for about 50 minutes. The top of the cake should be firm to the touch.
Turn the tube pan over a wire rack and let the cake cool to room temperature.
Run a thin blade or a firm strip of plastic all around the edge of the pan to loosen it from the pan.
Slice with a serrated knife.

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