The Cookie & Milk Cup

ImageThis weekend was an eventful one — we celebrated our friend’s visit to Baltimore on Thursday night with some great food, went out to dinner at Papi’s Taco Joint on Friday night, visited the Boordy Vineyards on Saturday afternoon, cooked a homestyle Arabic dinner, and made “The Cookie-and-Milk Cup” on Sunday afternoon. This cookie cup is inspired by the Cookie Shots — a brilliant invention of Chef Dominique Ansel, who is also the creator of the world famous Cronut. Hailing from France, Chef Ansel was alien to the common concept of dipping warm cookies in cold milk and so his genius mind thought “why not combine the two?” To hold the milk without leakage, he coats the inside of his cookie shots with a heat-resistant chocolate glaze so that he can warm the cookie shots (without melting the glaze) before pouring in the cold milk and serving. He fills his cookie shots with ice cold milk touched with vanilla and sugar, which makes them even more special.

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On my last visit to NYC, we were so close to visiting the Dominique Ansel Bakery in SoHo for some Cookie Milk Shots, until we found out they were closed that week due to a severe mice infestation. Those cookie shots had been on our minds since then and so the family finally got me to make them. I did not have oven-safe shot glasses so I used stoneware teacups and made cookie cups instead of cookie shots. The amount of dough that went in one cup was equal to almost 4-5 regular sized cookies. So the cookie cups were obviously pretty heavy. I coated the insides of the cups with melted dark chocolate to make them sturdy enough to hold a good amount of milk. And lastly, I got the vanilla bean infused milk ready to get poured into the cookie cups. We thought that the vanilla milk was the star of the cookie cups. It was cold, barely sweet and super refreshing.

This cookie cup was definitely fun to make. But watching others trying hard to eat it in a dignified manner was much more fun! Make it at home and you will not have anyone judge you by your chocolate smeared face! 😉

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The Cookie & Milk Cup

Partially adapted from Byron Talbott

For the cookie cup:
2 cups – plain flour

1/2 tsp – salt
1/2 cup – unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup – granulated sugar
1/2 – brown sugar
1 – egg
1/2 cup – semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup – dark chocolate for the coating

For the vanilla bean infused milk:
1 cup – cold milk
1 inch piece – vanilla bean, split & scraped (or use 1/8 tsp of vanilla bean paste)
1/4 tsp – sugar

1) Whisk the butter and sugars for 3-5 minutes till smooth and creamy. Add in the egg and whisk till incorporated.
2) Add in the salt and flour, a third at a time and mix just till incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips.
3) Cover and refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes. In the mean time, brush the insides of 6 oven-safe teacups with oil or melted butter. Alternatively, you can use a popover pan to make these cups.
4) Make the vanilla milk by combining all the ingredients and refrigerate till it’s ready to use.
5) Lightly flour your hands. Divide the chilled dough among the greased cups and press it firmly and evenly on the base and sides of the cup, making sure there are no holes/cracks/air pockets. Also make sure the cups have a decent thickness. They will break if they are too thin. Smooth the insides using a straight rolling pin or a similar shaped object.
6) Place a piece of foil big enough to cover all the dough inside the cup. Then fill the cup with pie weights or any uncooked beans like black beans, kidney beans or garbanzo beans. If you skip this step, your cookie cups will not remain hollow. They will rise and there will be no room to pour the milk.
7) Place the cups on a baking sheet and bake them for 15 minutes in an oven preheated to 375°F. Take the cups out and carefully pull out the foil with beans in it. Place them back into the oven for another 5-8 minutes or until the cookie cups have brown edges. Let them cool for 30 minutes.
8) Gently invert the cups and the cookie cup should easily slide out. Melt the dark chocolate in a double boiler or microwave and brush it on the insides of the cookie cups, paying special attention to any cracks that developed during the baking process. This will make the cups sturdy enough to hold the milk well. Refrigerate the cookie cups for 20 minutes or till the chocolate coating hardens. 

9) When ready to eat, pour in the vanilla milk.
10) Take a sip of milk, take a bite of the cookie, take a sip, take a bit, take a sip, take a bite, share and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Blackberry White Chocolate Macarons

I never liked how macarons tasted, but I loved how they looked — pretty pastel colored cookies with frilly centers, almost like they just walked out of a dollhouse. A couple of weeks ago, I tried making French macarons for the first time following Chef Pierre Herme’s world famous macaron recipe (Italian meringue method). I ground almonds to make my own almond flour and made the batter following the recipe to the gram. I had hopes of seeing perfect (smooth shiny tops, frilly feet and what not) macarons slide out of the oven. But I failed. As disappointed as I was, I had to convince myself that I got tricked by this 3-ingrdient recipe which looked so straightforward but was really not.

After this first attempt, I did decide never to waste anymore almond flour in making macarons. Soon after, we were toured around New York City by an awesome food enthusiast and on his suggestion, my sister and I visited Chef Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and tried their macarons. We got a box of six — raspberry white chocolate, mango-coconut, vanilla, chocolate and pistachio. These macarons were very promising — they tasted less of sugar and more of the flavor name tags beside them. Now I haven’t tried the Ladurée macarons and so I don’t know how good they are but I can assure you that the Bouchon Bakery macarons are probably better than the best.

Every time we taste an amazing baked good, my job is to come home, do some research, make it, (try to) meet the standards and perfect it. That being said, I was tempted to make macarons again, but this time, I had to meet the Bouchon standards!

ImageThis time I used store bought almond flour and used the French meringue method. I learned that making macarons was less about ingredients and a lot more about technique. Getting the meringue right is key and so is the batter consistency. After that comes recognizing the right oven temperature as all ovens differ. I still need to work on finding the suitable temperature.

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Blackberry White Chocolate Macarons

Partially adapted from Byron Talbott

For the the macaron shells:
65g (2/3 cup) — powdered sugar
50g (1/2 cup) — almond flour
1 — egg white
20g (2 tbsp) — granulated sugar
1 to 2 drops — purple gel food coloring (optional)

For the White Chocolate Buttercream
3 tablespoons — butter
1/4 cup — powdered sugar
3 tablespoons — melted white chocolate

For the Macerated blackberries:
10 to15 — blackberries
1 tablespoon — granulated sugar

1) In a medium bowl add the egg white and begin whisking until foamy. Add the granulated sugar and continue whisking until the meringue has semi-soft peaks. Add the food coloring half way through the process. Be careful not to over mix or you will have to start over.
2) Sift the almond flour and powdered sugar in a separate bowl and begin to fold the meringue into the dry ingredients a half at a time. Once the batter is finished it should look like a thick cake batter. Drop a little of the batter back into the bowl and if it absorbs into the rest of the batter within 15 seconds it’s finished.
3) Scoop the batter into a piping bag fitted with a small round metal tip and pipe out the macarons slightly larger than the “Thin Mint” wafers. Tap the tray to make sure there isn’t any air trapped inside the batter and allow to dry for 15-20 minutes. Once dry bake in a 300°F oven for 12-15 minutes.Take the macarons out of the oven and allow to cool for 30 minutes before removing them from the tray.
4) While the macarons are cooling, make the buttercream filling. In a medium sized mixing bowl add the room temperature butter and powdered sugar and begin to whisk until all of the powdered sugar is absorbed into the butter. Add the melted white chocolate and begin to whisk until the buttercream is smooth. Scoop into a piping bag and reserve until ready to use.
5) Slice some blackberries in half and add to a small bowl. Add some sugar to the blackberries and gently mix until the sugar has dissolved onto the blackberries.
6) Pipe a quarter sized dollop of buttercream on the flat side of a macaron then place one of the halved macerated blackberries in the center and gently press down until the buttercream spreads close to the edge of the macaron. Top with the other macaron cookie and enjoy!

Store the cookies in an airtight container.
Makes 1 dozen.

 

Wholewheat Olive Oil Galette filled with Homemade Ricotta, Asparagus Pesto & Tomatoes

Last week, my roomie Disha and I visited the Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, MD.

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We picked a whole bunch of gorgeous red raspberries….
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Sweet plump yellow tomatoes…

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Juliet tomatoes…

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Basil leaves…

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Mint leaves…

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And a whole mass of donut peaches (sweetest and juiciest peaches we ever ate) and sugar pears along with some fresh grass-fed cow milk, red apple salsa, fig jam, fresh herb bread, white eggplants, okra and heirlooms.Image

ImageAnd then we came home all crazy, excited and simply falling short for words of adoration at all the beautiful things that we picked.

For the longest time, I wanted to try making a galette — a flat, rustic-looking French tart. The galette pastry dough is usually made of plain flour and a whole lot of butter, similar to a tart pastry. Now, I haven’t tried making it that way just because a whole stick of butter in a dinner dish yielding two servings sounds scary. So I made a lighter and healthier version using wholewheat flour and olive oil. Surprisingly, the crust turned out perfect and crispy. Galettes can be sweet or savory. I made a savory one just because I needed to get my eyes off those pretty looking tomatoes before they rotted away.

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Along with the tomatoes, I filled the galette with some asparagus pesto and homemade ricotta cheese that I flavored with garlic, chili and dried rosemary.

ImageFor the Galette crust:
150 grams – whole wheat flour
100 grams – plain flour
1 teaspoon – fine sea salt
1 teaspoon dried herbs (I used mixed italian herbs)
1/4 cup – olive oil
1/2 cup – cold water (I used the cold whey from my ricotta)

1) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2) Combine the flour, salt, and herbs in a medium mixing bowl. Add the oil and mix it in with a fork. Add the water, mix with the fork until it is absorbed, then knead lightly until the dough comes together into a ball. (I just used the kitchen aid stand mixer for this step).
3) Tightly cover the dough in plastic wrap and chill it for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
4) Turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter. Sprinkle a little flour on the ball of dough and roll it out into a large circle. Keep sprinkling little flour underneath and on the dough when it seems on the verge of sticking to the counter.
5) Transfer the dough carefully into the prepared pan.

For the Filling:
1 – egg white, lightly beaten
1/2 cup – asparagus pesto
1/3 cup – herbed homemade ricotta (I used the homemade ricotta and herbed it with 4 cloves minced garlic, 1 small dry red chili – crushed, 1 tsp dried herb – I used rosemary, 1/4 teaspoon salt)
A bunch of mixed tomatoes (I used a mix of green tomato, baby yellow tomatoes and heirlooms) – deseed them, slice them and then lay them on 3 layers of paper towel to absorb the excess liquids, else the galette will be soggy.
A couple leaves of fresh basil

1) Brush some egg white on the galette base.

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2) Spread the pesto and ricotta. (Make sure to leave a 1″ border along the circle).
Image4) Arrange the sliced tomatoes and basil.
5) Start folding the border over the filling to seal the edge of the galette.
Image6) Brush the remaining egg white on the edge and bake the galette for about 25-28 minutes in a preheated oven (425 degrees F). It should be golden brown all over.

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7) Cool sightly to let the filling set and then slice and serve.
ImageBon Appetit!! 🙂

Asparagus Pesto

Green, hearty and healthy, this recipe is a winner. Spread it on pizzas or sandwiches, use it in pastas or salads. It’s amazing in every way.

1 bunch (about 1 pound) – asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1 bunch – fresh basil
10 – pecan nuts
2 slices (more or less) – jalapeno pepper
6 cloves – garlic
1/2 cup – olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

1) Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt it. Add the asparagus and cook until fully tender but not mushy, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain well, reserving couple spoons of the cooking liquid, and let the asparagus cool slightly.
2) Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz together till it’s nearly smooth.
3) You can refrigerate it or freeze it for future use.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

This summer, I had classes until mid August and soon after I got done, all I wanted to do was to try making an assortment of cheeses from scratch. I made Arabic white cheese, fresh mozzarella cheese, mascarpone cheese and ricotta cheese. Surprisingly, they were all easy to make and all of them used about the same ingredients. One morning I woke up thinking about making fresh parmesan at home too and then I LOL’d to myself when I realized it took 9 -10 months to age and mature.

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Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen

3 cups – whole milk
1 cup – heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon – sea salt
3 tablespoons – freshly squeezed lemon juice

1) Pour the milk, cream and salt into a saucepan. Attach a candy or deep-fry thermometer. Heat the milk to 190°F, stirring it occasionally to keep it from sticking on the bottom.
2) Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice, then stir it gently once or twice. Let the pot sit undisturbed for 5 minutes.
3) Line a colander with a few layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl (to catch the whey). Pour the curds and whey into the colander and let the curds strain for at least an hour. At an hour, you’ll have a tender, spreadable ricotta. Store the ricotta in a airtight container.

Makes about 1 generous cup.

Note: Don’t discard the whey. It’s full of protein so use it up in soups, smoothies or replace the water in making any dough. I used my whey in making the galette pastry dough.

Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake

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For the cake layer:
Dry ingredients:
1 1/2 cups – plain flour
1 cup – sugar
3 tbsp – unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp – baking soda
1/2 tsp – salt

Wet ingredients:
6 tbsps – oil
1 tbsp – white vinegar
1 tsp – vanilla extract
1 cup – ice cold water

1) Mix all the ingredients very well with a whisk.
2) Pour all the liquids into the dry flour mixture and mix well with a whisk until the batter is smooth. Do not over beat.
3) Pour the batter in a 9″ cake pan with a loose bottom or a spring form pan. Bake the cake for about 20 – 25 minutes or until the top is springy when touched. When it’s done, take it out and cool completely.
4) Once the cake is cool, brush it with some brandy or amaretto (optional). 

For the dark chocolate mousse:
150 gms – mini marshmallows
50 gms (1/2 stick) – unsalted butter 
250 gms – dark chocolate (at least 60% cacao), chopped
1/4 cup – boiling hot water
250 ml – heavy cream
1 tsp – pure vanilla extract

1) Place all the ingredients except heavy cream and vanilla in a non-stick saucepan and stir together on med-low heat until it’s all smooth and melted. Take off from the heat and let it cool.
2) While the chocolate mixture is cooling, whip the cream and vanilla until soft peaks form (not stiff).
3) Gently fold in the cooled chocolate mixture until it’s all mixed. Pour this mousse on the cake layer and chill it in the fridge until it’s well set.

For the white chocolate glaze:
1/2 cup – white chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp – heavy cream
1/2 cup – sour cream

1) Heat the heavy cream till it’s hot but not boiling.
2) Pour it over the chopped chocolate and let it sit undisturbed for 2 minutes. Then stir it up till all the chocolate melts. Let it cool to room temperature. Then whisk in the sour cream and pour the glaze over the dark chocolate mousse layer. Refrigerate till set.
3) Decorate with berries of your choice and serve.

Pesto Paneer Wraps

IMG_2064A friend was over for the weekend and we spent hours trying to decide what to make for dinner. We opened the refrigerator and cluelessly stood there staring at what we had but yet not being able to decide. We saw a whole bunch of fresh basil and tons of garlic, so thought we should make pesto. Then we thought we should make pesto pizza with goat cheese. We didn’t have any goat cheese on hand so we decided to make pesto and eggplant panini. Then we realized we didn’t have any bread for the panini on hand. So instead of running to the store and getting the missing ingredients, we challenged ourselves to make a delicious dinner out of the few things we had on hand. With some veggies, pesto, paneer cubes and tortillas, I thought of making paneer pesto wraps.

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This wrap was a cross between Indian paneer tikka stuffed Kati Rolls and an Italian roasted eggplant panini. And then the friend suggested to spice up the wrap with some sriracha sauce… and that totally hit the spot!

For the Marinated Paneer
1 cup – sliced paneer (cottage cheese)
1 recipe – homemade pesto

For the Roasted Veggies
1 – green bell pepper/colored peppers, cut into thin strips
2 – zucchinis OR 1 medium – eggplant, sliced
3 cloves – garlic, sliced (optional)
2 teaspoons – olive oil
salt & black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon – fresh/dried rosemary

For the Caramalized Onions
1 tablespoon – olive oil
1 medium – onion, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon – sugar
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon – fresh/dried rosemary

To Assemble the Wrap
8 – whole wheat tortillas
Marinated paneer
Roasted Veggies
Caramelized onions
Fresh mozzarella to your liking, sliced/any other kind of cheese that melts well
To serve – sriracha sauce (optional)