Ria's Collection: February 2014

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Safari themed Birthday Cake
Do you all remember the Baby Carriage Baby Shower Cake I did for a little girl, last year? That little bundle of joy turned One, a week ago and her parents asked me if I could do her First Birthday Cake too! What an honour, right? I mean, they have so many choices to choose from and they chose me! They are our close friends,like family.I agreed to do it but when D, told me their choice of theme, I did have a doubt whether I would be able to pull it off!

Baby Shower Cake
First Birthday's are so special. I remember how much I had planned for Ian's and no way would I want anything to go wrong on that day so I was a little worried if I would do justice to the cake they wanted. The cake ate my brains, literally.In a good way, though. I planned out and spanned my work over a few days while Ian was sleeping because he is an animal lover and I knew the minute he saw a Zebra or a Giraffe, he would ask me for it. Which, of course he did...but later though, after I assembled the whole cake.

Safari themed cupcakes
They also wanted me to bake some themed cupcakes and the decorations were left up to me. I mean, they just left the most attention seeking thing on that party to me.I had a big job to do! I scanned Pinterest for cupcake topper ideas and found some which I really liked and went ahead with it. D, sent me the cake's photograph so I just made it accordingly.

Safari Themed Birthday Cake
It snowed so hard the night before the party and the next morning,the roads were super slippery.While transporting them,I was holding onto the cake stand so tight that my hands were sweating and I really feared that the heat would pass onto the fondant and melt it all! It was only after we got to the venue did I breathe properly :-) And once the party was over, D, told me that it was her dream cake and that the entire party was based around that cake! That comment from her sealed the deal, for me :-)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
We turned 4 and I still cannot believe that. Years are flying by especially after Ian Vaava was born.I have no clue about day or date unless there's some occasion that I need to remember.I jot down all our future activities on my kicthen calender or else,I will forget them for sure. Everytime when someone asks me for our dates for any kind of an activity, I have to check with Jobin to avoid confusions. Does that happen to you?

Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
I knew this year would be different with regards to the anniversary cake. I usually tell Jobin not to open the fridge because I don't want him to see the cake ahead of time. This year, I didn't tell him anything and he didn't open the fridge...and then he decided to make his morning drink of honey and lime juice! 'That's a nice cake!',was his reaction. I was juggling between something in the kitchen and all I could manage to say was,'You know you are not allowed to open the fridge!'.

Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
We were watching something on TV a few weeks back and while channel surfing, I came across this recipe on America's Test Kitchen.After watching that show, it didn't take me a long time to decide what the anniversary cake should be. It was that easy! I mean, the decision making was easy since planning and making something these days, with our India trip in a week's time is not that easy. I have so much to finish before I start packing our bags,for India.

Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise
I haven't mentioned it here till now that I am writing the dessert column for Malayali ,a monthly bi-lingual magazine, the first of it's kind in the USA. It's been many months now and I am thinking of submitting the future articles for it before I leave.There is another magazine work in the pipeline and that submission is also before I leave. Then the baking groups that I am part of... I think I should just stop talking about it all! There's so much to do in so little time. So,let's move on to the cake!!
Chocolate - Espresso Dacquoise Ingredients:
3/4 cup blanched sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup hazelnuts,toasted & skinned
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

3/4 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon water
1 1/2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
16 tablespoons unsalted butter,softened

6 oz bittersweet chocolate,chopped fine
3/4 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons corn syrup
12 whole hazlenuts,toasted & skinned ( I didn't use)
1 cup blanched sliced almonds,toasted

Meringue:Preheat the oven to 250 F and draw a 13 X 10 1/2 inch rectangle on a piece of parchment.
Process the nuts, cornstarch & salt until the nuts are finely ground,15-20 seconds. Add in 1/2 cup sugar and process again to blend, 2 pulses.
In another large bowl, whisk together the whites and cream of tartar on medium low until foamy,about a minute. Increase the speed to medium high and whisk until they form soft billowy mounds,about a minute.With the mixer running on medium high, slowly add the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and whisk till stiff peaks form,2-3 minutes. Fold the nut mixture into the stiffly beaten whites in 2 batches.
Spread this over the parchment,using the marked lines as the guide and bake it for 1 1/2 hours.Once baked,switch off the oven and let it cool inside the oven for another 1 1/2 hours. Do not open the oven during this entire time.Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. Trim the meringue with a serrated knife,in a sawing motion to 12 X 10 inch rectangle.Cut them into 4 equal rectangles. Set aside.

Buttercream: Heat the milk until simmering. In another bowl, whisk together the yolks,cornstarch,sugar & salt until smooth.Pour a little bit of the warm milk into it,whisking while doing so to temper the yolks. Pour the yolk and egg mixture back into the saucepan and cook on medium heat until it thickens to a soft pudding like texture. Transfer it to a bowl, clingwrap it touching the surface and chill for a minimum of 2 hours.Before using it, bring it to room temperature.

In a small bowl, mix together water and instant espresso.Using a mixer,beat the butter on medium high speed until fluffy,3 minutes. Add the pastry cream in 3 batches,beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the coffee and beat well for 5 minutes,scraping the sides if needed.

Ganache: Melt all the ingredients together in the microwave oven for about a minute. Take it out and stir until smooth.

Assembly: Spread 1/4 cup ganache over 3 out of the 4 rectangles of meringue. Let them chill in the fridge for 15 mins. Spread 1/2 cup buttercream over the remaining meringue.Plop the ganache topped meringue over it.Spread 1/2 cup of buttercream over it and cover that with another ganache topped meringue. Repeat. It will resemble a rectangle box. Spread the remaining buttercream all over the top and sides and smoothen it.Chill for a few hours.Warm the remaining ganache to a pourable consistency and pour over the top. Level it out and spread it to the sides.Cover the sides with sliced almond and top with hazlenuts. I didn't have them, so piped some buttercream instead. Chill well and slice with a sharp hot knife.

All I can say is that this was a delectable cake. A classic French cake.On the show, they did mention that it's a piece to master,so, I was extra cautious while making it.The meringue softens once assembled so it just blends in very well with the espresso buttercream and the ganache.It is a very light,melt-in-your-mouth kind of a cake.I am sure I will make it again.
The top layer didn't turn out as glossy as I wanted it to because there were other things I was juggling between in the kitchen that day and I couldn't pay attention to it,completely. Our kitchen is like a food machine...so much is going in and so much more is coming out. Phew!
To be honest, I have to tell myself every now and then that we are going for a long vacation...but that happens only when I get some free time to think about it :-)


Monday, February 10, 2014


Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
The earliest memories I have of these rolls are from Cochin Bakery, Kannur. It was many years ago when I was in school. That bakery was located in a corner on Fort Road and after a few years, they shut it down. By then, these rolls were everywhere. Somehow, I was never excited to try them after that. I think it was the size and colour that threw me off. They were huge and ugly brown. It was fried sometime early in the day and still lingered in those shelves till they were sold.

Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
I think Amma needs to be blamed for that! We were and still is spoilt with choices at home. Food is always served hot at home and there was a point when my brother wouldn't eat anything other than those right off of the stove! Imagine! He will not eat any snack that was stored in tins but only those which came out piping hot from the oil! He is so much better now, hostel life changes you in so many ways!
Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
I was scrolling through my cousin Priya Chechy's food photographs yesterday and saw these rolls .I don't know where I got the craving for them but it was very strong that I decided to take action right away. I always have poached chicken with me,either in the fridge or in the freezer. So making these were a breeze.Seriously,these are so much better when made at home.They taste so fresh and are unbelievably flavourful!

Bakery Style Chicken Rolls
3 cups of poached chicken, shredded
1 large shallot or 8 pearl onions, diced
3 green chilies,chopped
1 inch ginger, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
5 curry leaves,chopped
1 teaspoon vinegar
Salt & pepper

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups milk
1 egg
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar

3 egg whites,lightly beaten
Fresh breadcrumbs from 6 slices of bread

Filling: Heat oil and saute all the ingredients from shallots through curry leaves.Once the shallots have softened, add the chicken and mix well to coat. Add the vinegar and saute for 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and check for seasonings.Let it cool.
Wrapper: Mix all the ingredients together,reserve 1/4 cup of the batter and make sixteen 6 inch pancakes using the remaining batter.
Assembly: Divide the filling into 16 and place them over the 16 pancakes,a little lower than the centre of each pancake. Fold them like how you would with a spring roll and seal the edges with the reserved 1/4 cup batter.Dip each roll in egg white and roll them in breadcrumbs. Deep fry them in hot oil ,drain on paper towels and serve with ketchup!

I wasn't very sure if the filling would be Ian friendly but went ahead with it anyway. Ian was fast asleep when I made these rolls and by the time he woke up, I had fried a few for us to enjoy . He was overjoyed to see the deep fried goodies and happily munched on them!
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