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Oct 17, 2017
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Baked

Recipe: Diwaili Desserts

Thursday, October 12th, 2017

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Hindus around the world light up the night next week during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that takes place Oct. 19 this year. The holiday celebrates good triumphing over evil and light overcoming darkness with firecrackers, homes decorated with elaborate designs of colored rice flour and flower petals, and an abundance of sweets.

Some of the fancier, heavier desserts include gulab jamun (milky doughnuts balls in sugar syrup), jalebi (chickpea-flour fritters also soaked in sugar syrup) or ras malai (cottage cheese dumplings steeped in milk syrup). You can purchase them, of course, but many Indians like to make lighter desserts at home and distribute them in boxes to family and friends.

Cows are considered holy in Hinduism, and many people in ancient times owned cows or had access to their milk. There are 150 or more milk-based desserts made for Diwali, and I’m sharing two of my South Indian family’s favorites.

Historically, most Indian homes didn’t have ovens (and many still don’t), so Diwali desserts are often made on the stovetop with lots of stirring and patience. Prior to the days of condensed milk, chefs it cooked down, which took hours of constant stirring. Now, the recipes are a bit more simplified but still require 20 to 30 minutes of stovetop mixing.

This results in lightly sweetened milky desserts, like burfi (also known by sandesh or peda depending on the region) adorned with some finely chopped pistachios or almonds. This burfi recipe is just a base. Many households adapt it to suit their family tradition, adding mango puree, saffron, cardamom or cocoa powder.

Another common dessert is yogurt-based pudding called shrikhand. This is typically made by straining whole-milk plain yogurt through cheesecloth for several hours, but my mother discovered that using Greek yogurt saves all that hassle. I’ve included her recipe for a lovely, sweetened shrikhand perfumed with cardamom and saffron.

 

 

Milk Burfi
20 to 30 pieces

Customize this recipe with your favorite flavors. Add ¼ cup mango puree or 3 tablespoons cocoa powder with the dairy at the beginning of the recipe, or mix a few strands of saffron or ¼ cup shredded sweetened coconut with the cardamom.

1 15-oz. package ricotta cheese
1 14-oz. can condensed milk
½ cup (1 stick) butter
½ tsp. cardamom ground
Handful pistachio or almond slivers

• Line a baking sheet with parchement paper.
• In a medium saucepan over medium heat, use a rubber spatula to constantly stir the ricotta, milk and butter 20 to 30 minutes until it comes together. Add the caradmon and reduce the heat to low.
• Place a small piece of dough on the baking sheet. If it does not shift of spread, transfer the dough onto the baking sheet. Use your hands or a rolling pin to roll the dough to ½-inch thickness.
• Use a cookie cutter to make shapes and decorate with pistachio and almond slivers, or use your hands to make small balls of dough, then flatten a bit between your palms. Make a small indentation in the center to fill with the pistachio or almond slivers.
• Refrigerate and serve chilled or at room temperature.

 

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Shrikhand
6 to 8 servings

½ tsp. saffron
1 tsp. milk
1 32-oz. containter plain full-fat Greek yogurt
1 16-oz. container sour cream
¾ cup sugar
½ tsp. cardamom
Dried fruit or nuts like pistachios or almonds, for garnish (optional)

• Soak the saffron in the milk.
• In a large mixing bowl, beat the yogurt, sour cream and sugar on medium speed until the sugar dissolves and mixtures isn’t grainy.
• Add in the cardamom and the saffron and milk. Taste and adjust the spices and sugar as needed.
• Serve in bowls and top with dried fruit and nuts, if desired.

Photos by Amrita Song

Amrita Song is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine who blogs at A Song in Motion

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Recipe: Cloud Eggs

Thursday, September 14th, 2017

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Cloud eggs are the latest Instagram-worthy breakfast trend. They are so simple to put together, and they make a gorgeous presentation. The egg whites are fluffed up beforehand, so they are soft and airy. The pesto underneath adds lovely herbal seasoning, and the runny yolk provides a nice texture. Serve alongside toast and bacon or sausage.

 

Cloud Eggs
Inspired by a recipe from Rachel Ray Every Day  
6 servings

6 eggs
3 Tbsp. pesto
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

• Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Lay out a baking sheet with a sheet of parchment paper.
• Separate the eggs, carefullly keeping the yolks intact.
• Whip the egg whites with an electric beater on medium speed until fluffy and stiff.
• Spoon the fluffy whites into 6 mounds atop the parchment paper. Use the back of the spoon to make an indentation in the middle of each white. Gently place ½ tablespoon pesto inside each indentation. Season the egg whites with salt and pepper.
• Bake 3 minutes, then remove the baking sheet from the oven. Carefully spoon 1 egg yolk into each indentation, then bake 2 to 4 minutes to your desired doneness. Serve immediately.

Photo by Amrita Song 

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings. 

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Recipe: Crispy Granola

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

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I confess I have never been a fan of granola, but now I will have to amend that statement to “I have never been a fan of store-bought granola.” This granola is magnificent with yogurt or even just eaten plain as a snack. The cardamom and vanilla add a nice bit of spice, and the whole batch together tastes toasty and not too sweet.

This combo of dried fruit and nuts is my particular favorite. You can change any of the mix-ins according to your preference, and even omit the nuts entirely for a nut-free variation. For a gluten-free option, make sure your oats are gluten-free and omit the wheat germ. This makes enough to share – though you may not want to.

 

Crispy Granola
Adapted from a recipe at Serious Eats
About 9 cups

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/3 heaping cup wheat germ
1 heaping Tbsp. chia seeds
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
¾ cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla bean paste or 1 split and scraped vanilla bean
1 tsp. cardamom
½ tsp. kosher salt
¾ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup cashews
½ cup sliced almonds
1 tsp. olive oil
½ cup dried blueberries
½ cup dried tart cherries
½ cup golden raisins

• In a large mixing bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ and chia seeds. Stir in the buttermilk and melted butter until evenly coated. Cover with a towel and set aside 20 minutes, until the oats appear dry.
• Stir in the sugar, vanilla, cardamon and salt and toss to coat evenly. Cover with a towel and set aside 30 minutes, until the mixture looks loose and damp.
• Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Spread the pumpkin seeds, cashews and almonds on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake 10 minutes, until fragrant and beginning to brown. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, toss with the oil and stir in the blueberries, dried cherries and raisins. Set aside.
• Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.
• Spread the oat-mixture in an even layer across the same baking sheet. Bake 75 to 100 minutes, stirring the granola every 20 to 25 minutes, until the oats are toasted and dry.
• Add the toasted oats to the dried fruit and nuts, stir to combine, then return to the baking sheet and let cool completely. Transfer to airtight containers. The granola can be stored for several weeks at room temperature.

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets.

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Recipe: Roast Carrots with Whipped Yogurt

Monday, August 21st, 2017

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I love roasting vegetables, but I’ve never been a fan of carrots. I think this was due partly to my dear mom forcing me to eat her rubbery carrot rounds with mustard seeds. To this day, I’m still not a fan of carrots sliced in rounds.

But when I saw a gorgeous bundle of multicolored carrots at the store, I decided to give them another shot. These turned out so much tastier than I expected. The carrot’s natural sweetness really shines here, and the nice light addition of herbs is a nice complement. This is a perfect side dish, and tastes like classic comfort food. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Roasted Carrots
Adapted from a New York Times recipe 
3 to 4 servings

1 lb. carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
1-2 Tbsp. avocado oil
1 tsp. fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
¾ cup plain Greek yogurt, plus more as needed
¼ cup heavy cream

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil wiped with oil.
• In a mixing bowl, toss the carrots with the oil and thyme. Spread the carrots onto the baking sheet in an even layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes.
• Reduce the heat to 375 degrees and bake another 10 to 15 minutes until the carrots are tender.
• In a small bowl, use an electric mixer to whip the yogurt and cream on medium-high speed until thick and stiff.
• Transfer the carrots to a serving bowl and gently toss with parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with the whipped yogurt.

Amrita Song is a longtime Sauce contributor who owns Mila Sweets. 

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Recipe: Tandoori Red Snapper

Recipe: Tandoori Red Snapper

Tuesday, August 1st, 2017

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Tandoori masala is a mixture of spices often applied to meat and then cooked in a tandoor, or a clay oven. Masala is made of many ingredients, including garam masala, garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper and cloves. My family likes to save the trouble of making the powder and instead purchases the Shan brand of Tandoori Masala, available at Global Foods Market or various Indian grocery stores. Applied on a fish with a tasty skin like snapper or salmon, it makes a great one-pan weeknight meal when paired with some roasted vegetables. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Tandoori Red Snapper
Adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe 
2 servings

2 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 red onion, diced
3 Tbsp. avocado oil
Juice of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. Shan Tandoori masala*, divided
½ Tbsp. garlic powder
2 ½-lb. skin-on red snapper fillets
Lemon wedges for serving

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and parboil about 10 minutes until tender. Drain well and let cool completely,
• Transfer the potatoes to a large mixing bowl, then add the onion, oil, lemon juice, ½ tablespoon masala and garlic powder.
• Use a sharp knife to score the skin of the fillets about a ¼-inch deep. Rub the remaining 1½ tablespoons masala all over the fish fillets well, and mix any remaining masala into the potatoes and onions.
• Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread the potatoes and onions onto it in an even layer. Place the fillets skin side-up on top of the potatoes and onions. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, until the fish is cooked through.
• Serve immediately with extra lemon wedges to squeeze over the top.

*Available at Global Foods Market

Amrita Song is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine and blogs at A Song in Motion. 

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Baked: Shrimp ‘Boil’

Monday, July 10th, 2017

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My husband loves a good seafood boil, but since we don’t live near a coast, we don’t get to have them too often. This summer, I’m making my own version, but without melting over a propane-fired outdoor steamer. The taste of this baked “boil” sends me to a Baltimore harbor, getting my hands dirty as I dive into seafood. It’s simple to put together and goes well with a tasty beer on a hot day.

 

Baked Shrimp ‘Boil’
Adapted from a Land O Lakes recipe
2 to 4 servings

½ lb. Baby Dutch or new potatoes, quartered
2 ears corn, cut into thirds
¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted
1 to 2 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
2 tsp. chile-lime seasoning
2 tsp. garlic powder
½ lb. medium tail-on shrimp, deveined
6 oz. andouille sausage, sliced
Lemon wedges for serving

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a very large baking sheet with parchment paper.
• Bring a large pot of water to boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and parboil 5 minutes, then add the corn. Boil together 5 minutes until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork but still firm. Drain well and set aside to cool.
• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the butter, Old Bay, chile-lime seasoning and garlic powder. Add the shrimp and sausage and toss, then add the parboiled potatoes and corn into the mixture and toss until evenly coated.
• Pour the contents of the bowl onto the baking sheet, and drizzle with any remaining butter. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until the shrimp is opaque.
• Serve immediately with lemon wedges.

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings. 

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Baked: Honey & Yogurt Cake

Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

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This cake is perfect for a Sunday brunch. It’s not too sweet and can be made savory with by swapping just a few ingredients. The base is simple: yogurt, honey and olive oil. Use your finest honey and olive oil since those shine the brightest. The tangy yogurt balances the sweetness from the honey and the crumb is moist and light. I added thawed, semi-dried green figs from Trader Joe’s, which gave a gentle crunch to each bite. Try this recipe with thyme, rosemary or sage – or serve with jam or fresh fruit. Just be prepared to love it. Enjoy and happy baking!

 

Honey & Yogurt Cake
Adapted from a recipe at The Kitchn
8 to 12 servings

1 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek)
⅔ cup honey
⅔ cup olive oil
3 large eggs
1½ cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
½ cup coarsely chopped fresh or dried figs
Jam or fresh fruit, for serving (optional)

• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 9-inch cake pan with nonstick spray line the bottom with parchment paper.
• In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, honey and olive oil. Whisk in the eggs, then use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
• Pour the batter into the pan and sprinkle the figs over the top. Bake 40 to 50 minutes, until golden and a knife inserted into the center (avoid poking the figs) comes out clean or with a few crumbs attached.
• Let cool at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature with jam or fresh fruit, if desired.

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings. 

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Baked: Roasted Green Beans

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Baked: Roasted Green Beans

Friday, June 23rd, 2017

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Roasted green beans are a great way to add veggies to your diet. Roasting them with some simple seasonings results in nicely charred, full flavored beans that make a great side or even just a mid-afternoon snack. Drizzle with a bit of balsamic, a strong cheese like feta or Parmesan or your favorite herbs for a final flourish. You can do this with broccoli, cauliflower or Brussels sprouts, but green beans are my personal favorite.

 

Roasted Green Beans
2 to 3 servings

1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 to 2 Tbsp. honey
1 cinnamon stick
1 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. garlic powder
Sprinkle sea salt
Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper
Handful chopped basil, for garnish

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• In a small saucepan over low heat, gently reduce the balsamic vinegar, honey and cinnamon stick until the mixture is thick and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and set aside.
• Toss the green beans in a bowl with the oil until evenly coated.
• On a wide baking sheet, spread the green beans in a single layer, then evenly sprinkle them with the garlic powder, salt and pepper.
• Roast 20 minutes, until nicely charred and crisp.
• Remove to a serving plate, drizzle with 1 tablespoon balsamic reduction, garnish with basil and serve immediately.

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings. 

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Thursday, June 8th, 2017

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I enjoy making hazelnut praline from scratch. Toasted hazelnuts are reminiscent of Nutella without the chocolate (though you can always add chocolate if you want). The recipe takes a little work, but it makes a few cups that go a long way in many desserts. You can fill cupcakes with it, add it to batters or simply eat it spread on toast.

I recently had some condensed milk lying around and thought I’d try to make a pound cake incorporating it and the hazelnut praline. The praline doesn’t add too much to the cake – it’s a subtle flavor enhanced when you spread more atop your slice. This was simply perfect when friends came over for tea. The praline has a slight crunch from the caramel and hazelnut and pairs nicely with a moist, simple pound cake.

 

Condensed Milk Pound Cake
Adapted from a recipe at Spicy Southern Kitchen

½ cup hazelnut praline, plus more for serving (recipe follows)
½ cup (2 sticks) room-temperature butter
3 large eggs
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flour
¾ cup sweetened condensed milk
¾ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. kosher salt
3 Tbsp. coarse sugar

• Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.
• Use the stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the hazelnut praline and butter on medium speed until fluffy, about 10 minutes. Add the eggs 1 at a time, then the vanilla.
• Reduce the speed to low and add the flour, condensed milk, baking powder and salt. Scrape down the bowl with a spatula to mix evenly.
• Pour the batter into the loaf pan and evenly sprinkle the top with the coarse sugar.
• Bake about 1 hour, until a knife inserted into the center comes out mostly clean. Let cool at least 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and let cool completely. Serve with more hazelnut praline on the side.

 

Hazelnut Praline

1½ cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1½ cup blanched, toasted hazelnuts
1 Tbsp. hazelnut or vegetable oil

• Place a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat mat on a work surface.
•In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Occasionally swirl the pan but do not stir. Cook 7 to 8 minutes until it turns amber. Immediately remove from heat, add the hazelnuts and stir to coat.
• Immediately pour the entire mixture onto the lined baking sheet, spreading out the hazelnuts with a spatula. Let cool completely.
• Break the praline into pieces and place in the bowl of a food processor or powerful blender. Add the oil and pulse until a smooth paste forms.
• Pour into a large jar or container and store at room temperature up to 1 month. Spread over slices of pound cake.

Amrita Song is the owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings. 

Baked: Chocolate and Orange Olive Oil Cake

Friday, May 19th, 2017

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I love a simple chocolate cake, unfrosted with a delicate crumb. It’s better still when it comes together in one bowl and bakes in one pan. The olive oil gives a rounded flavor that cuts the sweetness of the chocolate. When I want an easy dessert to serve to company or have something to nibble on Sunday morning, this is the recipe I turn to.

 

Chocolate and Orange Olive Oil Cake
Adapted from a recipe at Baked Bree 
8 servings

6 Tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted
½ cup boiling water
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup orange-infused or orange-flavored olive oil*
3 large eggs
¾ cup plus 1 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. orange zest
½ tsp. baking soda
Pinch of kosher salt
Powdered sugar or vanilla ice cream, for serving (optional)

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch round cake or pie pan.
• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the cocoa powder and water and let cool slightly. Add the vanilla extract and set aside.
• In the bowl of a stand mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar, olive oil and eggs until the mixture is thickened and pale, 2 to 3 minutes.
• Reduce the speed to low and carefully pour in the cocoa water. Mix until combined.
• With a spatula, fold in the flour, zest, salt and baking soda. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.
• Bake about 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out mostly clean.
• Let cool completely before turning the cake out of the pan. Serve with sifted powdered sugar or ice cream.

*Orange-infused or orange-flavored olive oil is available at Di Olivas, Extra Virgin: An Olive Ovation and Vom Fass.

Amrita Song is owner and baker at Mila Sweets and blogs at Chai & Dumplings

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