Tuesday, September 07, 2010

South Indian chicken curry

4-day work weeks should be made legal. I'm not particularly politically oriented but any candidate that lobbies this will have my vote, no questions asked. It makes plenty of sense, right? With computers doing a lot of our heavy lifting, we get more done any given day than ever before. Say good bye to Manic Mondays and by the time Wednesday rolls in, its not a hump anymore, the weeks almost 50% over! You can take decent weekend trips with plenty of time to come back, do laundry, make chicken curry and get ready for work first thing Tuesday morning. Perfectly logical...if only I can find a presidential candidate who agrees with me.

We just got back from an awesome trip to the Outer Banks. The south is such a different world, everybody is so nice, warm and laidback. We can't wait to go back again. But I have to admit, after 2 days of fried chicken, fried fish, hush puppies and sweet iced tea we were ready for some good ol' southern cooking-- south Indian cooking, that is.

There's no universal Indian chicken curry recipe, in fact, this is very similar to my mother-in-law's recipe which is completely different from my mom's. My mom's recipe has less gravy and no pepper. This curry is perfect for soaking rice in or for sopping up with chapatis. Although I've split the recipe into sections, it's not that complicated at all and is very quick. Oh and I forgot to mention the added bonus...clean up is a breeze! Sorry the picture looks like crap, my poor camera is still recovering from its shaken-by-toddler syndrome.

You will need:

For gravy:
1 large tomato (quartered or cut into large pieces)
1 large red onion (quartered or cut into large pieces)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp of dessicated coconut powder

Throw all ingredients into a blender and grind till smooth. Add 1/4 cup of water if needed to blend uniformly. In the mean time make the dry spice powder.

Dry spice powder:

2 tsp fennel powder
2 tsp black peppercorns
1 inch piece of cinnamon
5 cloves
4 cardamom pods

Grind all ingredients in a dry grinder till smooth. Save till its time to make the curry.

For the curry

2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 handful curry leaves
2 tsp chili powder (or more to taste, I add about 2 tbsp)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 lbs of boneless skinless chicken breast (cut into medium cubes)
2 medium yukon gold (or similar) potatoes (cut into medium cubes)
Salt to taste
Green chilies, cilantro, curry leaves (Optional, for garnish)

Add vegetable oil to a pressure cooker on medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds. After they finish sputtering, add the curry leaves. Pour in the tomato-onion paste from the blender. Add the ground spice powder from the dry grinder. Next throw in the chili powder, salt and turmeric. Let this mixture cook for a few minutes uncovered till big lava bubbles form and burst. The chicken and potatoes should be added at this point. Cover the pressure cooker, reduce heat to medium and let curry cook for about 20 minutes or till 3 whistles from the cooker. Once done, take off the heat, wait till the pressure cooker cools off completely. Check and add more salt if needed. Garnish with more curry leaves, split green chilies or cilantro.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good things...and pie

There are times when you can actually look at life and think, hmm things are not so bad after all. This summer was just like that it was full of... well, life. My little munchkin is phrasing sentences, helping pick fruit, watering the vegetables, swimming and being the best friend a mom could ever ask for.

School is chugging along and I finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, with experiments falling into place.

I've also been teaching little kids (newborns- 3 year olds) in church this year and its so wonderful to see the little babies make their milestones-- going from staring and smiling to helping out with all the props we play with. I've never been one to coo and coddle random babies on the street (at least till I had my own) so this side of me was quite a revelation.

Another new thing we did this summer was to camp, yes, with the little guy. It was so peaceful and rejuvenating, no cell phone reception or internet, just unadulterated family time. I highly recommend it, and in fact believe it improves productivity when you get back to the real world!

Then theres the usual travel. Our goal is to mould little man into a beach bum as early as possible. And I think its working, he was enjoying Bermuda's legendary turquoise waters as much as the locals. The legendary pink sand was another story though... that he wasnt crazy about.

On the kitchen front many happy things have happened as well. I found the perfect chocolate chip and leige waffle recipes. But those will have to be for another day because they fade in comparison to mastering the elusive science of the perfect pie-crust, my nemesis for a very long time. Its finally done, I now know how to make impossibly flaky, all butter pie crust. And summer is such a great time for pie with all the different fruit you can throw in. I've already tried it with peaches, nectarines and apples, with success each time. You should definitely give it a go. Its fool proof, really it is. Pim is genius! And really how bad can life be when you have pie?! I hope you've enjoyed your summer as much we have, if not, hurry up theres still a wee-bit left!

For the pie crust (makes for a double pie crust, or 2 single layer pie crusts):

2.25 cups of All purpose flour
8 ounces salted butter (cold and sliced into 6-8 big chunks)
1/4 cup of cold water

1 tbsp All purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar

Its all in the technique here. Pim has an awesome video that you can look at. But basically, you smoosh the butter till flat into the flour. Then with a pastry scraper in your right hand (if right handed) you scrape the flour from the edges into the middle where your left hand is continuing smooshing butter chunks into the flour. When you finally see more shaggy butter "sheet-lets" than flour, you pour on the cold water. Quickly gather the dough into a ball, wrap with plastic wrap and throw in the fridge for 30 mins.

After 30 minutes, sprinkle flour on your rolling surface. Get out the dough from the fridge and roll it out into a rectangle. Fold top 1/3rd in to the middle. Brush off excess flour. Fold bottom 1/3rd up to the middle, overlapping with first fold. Brush off excess flour. Turn 90 degrees and roll out into a rectangle and repeat the folding. Repeat this whole process of folding and turning for about 3-4 times. Divide the dough into 2 parts and refrigerate for 30 mins. In the meantime make the filling. After time in the fridge roll out one part of the dough into 1/16th of an inch and place it on greased and lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle rolled out dough with a mixture of 1 tbsp of flour and 2 tbsp of sugar. Preheat oven to 375F.

Rustic caramel apple tart filling

6 tbsp butter
6tbsp sugar
6-7 ginger gold/golden delicious apples, sliced thick
Juice of half a lemon

For egg wash:
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp of water

1bsp sugar for sprinkling over tart

Melt butter and sugar together on low-medium heat. When the mixture starts bubbling and has become a bit thick add the apples and lemon juice. Let cook for about 3 minutes. Dish out the apples and lay them in concentric circles around the pie dough (over flour and sugar mixture that was previously sprinkled on dough). Make sure to leave about 0.5-1 inch around the edges, depending on your taste. Fold the dough on the edges over the apples, making sure they're nice and snug. Bring the pan with butter, sugar and now apple juice back to heat. Increase temp to medium-high. Let cook till mixture becomes golden brown. Take off heat and pour over apples in the tart. Brush the edges with eggwash and sprinkle with sugar. This tart dough is a little bland so be generous with the sugar sprinkle. Place in 375F oven for about an hour or till the edges are nice and golden brown. Enjoy warm with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Crab curry

I did some of my schooling in New England and there was introduced to lobster. My cousin P took me to this place in Boston’s Chinatown called Hong Kong Eatery or Cafe or something like that. It was one of those communal eating places where when things got busy anybody could sit next to you. Yes, I've been there a lot and experienced this way too much. But the very first time we were there, it wasn't crowded and P and I feasted on our own 4 person table, allowing plenty of room for all the food we ordered. We maneuvered juicy, savory chunks of lobster out of their shells, scraping bits of the amazing ginger-scallion batter with our teeth. And just like that I was hooked to lobster! I’ve taken everybody I’ve known to that little shack and they have always loved it. I've since eaten lobster many different ways and it was my most favorite crustacean for the longest time. Was you ask? was.

You see, we moved to Maryland (MD) and some of the world's best crabs come from here. I've had some really nice crab cakes but never manned up to the entire crab. I'd keep remembering the time in Kuwait when my father ordered crab, which according to his chef-friend was fresh caught from the sea surrounding the restaurant. The crab came to our table complete in its shell-y glory and my Andrew-Zimmeran-wannabe father didnt know what the heck to do with it. We tried to help using our butter knives and forks...but nada. Even the chef-friend cowered saying that although trained to cook, he'd never actually eaten it! Finally my father sent back the crab and settled for a dinner of lamb kebabs and fries. In retrospect though, what a waste of good crab!

Back to Maryland, circa 2009. My boss, turns out, is a big crab buff. Every summer he throws a crab fest and everyone working with him is invited. Novice unsuspecting moi, was a little late getting food, so I took a paper plate, got some pasta salad and sat at the only empty spot which turned out (fortunately!) to be next to people from coastal China. To my plate I gingerly added a male and female crab, not really knowing the difference other than that they were in different boxes. And then out of nowhere, I hear stern commands, “No, NO, NOOO plates!” It was the boss. After a quick apology I dumped the crabs onto the paper lined table and… got savage. My very skillful table-mates gave me the lowdown on dismantling a crab and how to even tell the gender by looking at their flip sides. The soft, sweet meat was delicious without being masked by fillers usually found in crabcakes. The flavor was enough to beat lobster, but the work involved in getting to the good stuff was too much. There was absolutely no way I could make it at home, or so I thought. Till I decided to meet my fears head on and made Crab cioppino. It was gone before I even had a chance to take a picture. Last night however, I made an Indian-ized curry version which was perfect for drowning rice. I've got to tell you, there's no point being dainty getting the meat off the shells, the best (and only way) is to get dirty. If you're too tired to crack the shells and scoop out the meat, I found that violently shaking is pretty effective in getting the meat out (with a bonus of curry splatter on your walls). As for the claws, making an indentation with your teeth and using that as a hold to pry out the shell seems the way to go. It really is a labor of love-- a love for food, which is why inspite of having two fingers pierced by the spines of the Alaskan king crab (a completely different beast from the snow crab I first cooked), I know I will make it again!


Dry roast (on shallow pan without oil) and then powder:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
2 tsp corriander seeds

Grind in a blender with half a cup of water till the following resemble a paste:
6 small yellow onions, quartered
4 green chillies (thai peppers)
5 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp dessicated coconut

For the curry:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp of ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp chilli powder
2 cups water
2 big clusters of alaskan king crab (about 2.5 lbs) pre-steamed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp tamarind concentrate diluted with 1 cup of water
Salt to taste


Heat oil in a shallow, wide pan. Add ground onion paste, ginger-garlic paste and chilli powder. Cook the mixture till it becomes thick, brown and leaves an oily smear when mixing around. Add the freshly roasted spice mixture. Add 2 cups of water. Check seasoning at this point and add salt, making sure that the gravy is slightly undersalted as the crab is a bit salty by itself. Next arrange the crab pieces in a single layer around the pan and then add the tamarind "water". Cover the pan and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes. Garnish with cilantro if desired and serve with rice.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Daring Bakers February Challenge-- Tiramisu

My little man had a stomach virus the week before and the poor baby suffered as I'd never seen him and hope never to again. And when we finally managed to nurse him back to health, I got the bug! I've never gotten a stomach bug ever, EVER. All those years of roadside feasting in Kuwait and India, never! Anyways, we are all better now and its time to think about cooking, baking to be precise.

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

Here's their recipe and my pictures! The pictures are a bit sad but were the best I could do under the circumstances. Better ones next time, promise!!

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:

1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar

1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.

In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)

Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chi
lled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.

Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese


474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)

This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bye Bye Brioche!


Its a slightly misleading title, but what I really mean is "bye bye old, quick and easy recipe for brioche". With all due respect to the folks at Cooks Illustrated, Dorie Greenspans recipe kicks their behind far and beyond to another galaxy.

I'm never usually in a rush to eat brioche right away and dont mind letting the dough sit overnight for far more buttery delicious goodness. The hands on time is relatively the same. Although I must admit that this time around there was a lot of unnecessary hand kneading. Why? Because my Kitchenaid stand mixer died on me!! I dont understand how! I've had it for about 2 years but dont nearly use it as much as I should... nonetheless it happened. The hubby couldn't deal with the cries of disbelief and subsequent pouting, so replaced it the very next day with a brand spanking new professional version. I've been too intimidated to wrestle the 3 cubic foot box, so its been sitting there on the living room floor for a while now. I should get it out soon, I have to make some more brioche dough so I can make these sticky buns again, just toooo good! I've been eating them for breakfast, lunch and dinner 2 days in a row...they are that good (and yes, I do tend to overdo things, but just a bit ;) ). Make sure you have a glass of ice cold milk handy, you'll need it to cut through the sweetness. Enjoy!

Brioche dough (recipe makes for 2 batches of sticky buns)

2 packets active dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/3 cup lukewarm whole milk
3 3/4 cups of all purpose flour
2 tsp salt
3 large eggs at room temp
1/4 cup sugar
3 sticks unsalted butter, at room temp

Put yeast, milk and water in the bowl of stand mixer and stir till yeast dissolves. Add the flour and salt. Attach the bowl to the mixer and pulse for 20 seconds. Dough will be very shaggy and dry. Beat in the eggs one by one till fully incorporated and then add sugar. Beat on medium just till a ball is formed (I tried following the recipe to the t and tried kneading the dough ball for 2 additional minutes when my mixer died!). Reduce the speed to low (or in my case, throw caution into the air and get your fingers in) and add the butter in 2 tbsp chunks till all the butter is used up. You will end up with a very runny dough, don't be afraid you're on the right track. Transfer the dough to a greased clean bowl and let rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, punching it down periodically. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Or freeze dough in a ziplock bag with excess air removed for about 3 months.

For the sticky buns

1/2 the dough from above

For the glaze

1 cup granulated sugar (Dorie asks for light brown sugar but I was out)
1 stick butter
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cup cashew nuts (D says pecans)

For Filling

1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
3 tbsp salted butter
1 cup of raisins

Making the glaze

Melt butter, sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the honey. Pour the mixture onto a greased ovenproof 9x13 pan. And then sprinkle the nuts over it.

Making the buns:

Roll the dough out, roughly into a rectangle about 1 mm thick. Spread the 3 tbsp of the salted butter over the dough. Sprinkle the cinnamon, sugar and raisins over the dough. Roll it along its longest edge to get a nice long log. Cut the log into 1 inch pieces and arrange them on the pan with the honey glaze and nuts. Let the buns rise in a warm place for about an hour or till doubled in size. Bake in a 375 preheated oven for 30 minutes. Once the buns are out of the oven, let them sit for 20 minutes. Then place a platter over the still hot baking pan (use oven mitts!) and flip the baking pan over the platter. Serve sticky buns warm with whipped cream or a glass of milk.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Chicken enchilada soup for a snow day lunch

We've been getting a lot of snow around here lately, record breaking amounts in fact. Warnings have been issued to allow only emergency vehicles on the roads. My window and the street outside are covered by this thick fluffy blanket of pristine snow. So beautiful. Its the perfect weather for a bowl of piping hot and spicy chicken enchilada soup and a grilled cheese sandwich dunker.
Chicken enchilada soup

1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small yellow onion chopped
4 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 of a chicken breast (chopped to small bitesize cubes)
2 tbsp cumin powder
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp of salt
1 red pepper deseeded and cut into strips (or you can chop depending on your preference)
1 yellow pepper deseeded and cut into strips
2 cups of frozen roasted corn kernels (I used the Trader Joes brand, but can be substituted with regular corn kernels)
1 small can white lima beans (substitute with black beans or cannellini beans)
1 tbsp of tomato paste
4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp sour cream (or more to taste, substitute with heavy cream or even whole milk yogurt)
Salt to taste
Vegetable oil

Add about 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to a medium to large sauce pan. Turn on heat to medium. Add cumin seeds to the oil. Let them fry for a few seconds, then add onions and garlic. Cook till the onions are soft making sure the garlic doesnt burn, turn down heat if necessary. Add the chicken, salt, cumin powder and chili powder. Fry till the chicken is cooked through. Add the tomato paste, peppers, corn and beans (you can add other veggies like zucchini if you prefer) . Stir fry for about a minute. Add the chicken broth. Bring the soup to a boil, cover and let it cook for about 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and seasoning accordingly (as in more chili powder). Mix in the cream just before serving. Garnish with cilantro if you like (I do, but ran out). Enjoy hot. Soup tastes even better the next day when the flavors have time to meld. Leftovers freeze nicely too.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Nanaimo Bars

Happy New Year everybody! Its been a hectic couple of months around here-- with the holidays, our babysitter traveling, school, work, etc etc. Not that I'm whining...because I'm not...its my resolution not to whine... so I couldn't possibly be whining-- just stating facts :) . But I do have to keep this short. I will be back later and fill you in on what's been happening around here and also give you boat loads of new recipes, because, yes, the cooking never stops! Now down to business.

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

I did really try to go gluten free but hunting down the different flours proved too much of a hassle. So I settled for a mix of all purpose and whole wheat flour. The crackers are not only delicious and semi healthy, they are also terribly addictive.

As for the Nanaimo bars, they seem absolutely decadent. I just finished making them this evening and am too scared of coronaries to try a chunk so late at night. But I did taste the individual layers and they taste divine. Tomorrow though, with some company and a cup of black coffee, I will attempt it and let you know and you, for your part, call the ambulance when I'm down.

For the graham crackers I followed this recipe:

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup cold water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a food processor, mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add the cold butter and process for about 30 seconds until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the honey, water, and vanilla. Mix for a few more seconds until the dough starts to come together in a ball. Scrape dough out of the mixer and onto one sheet of parchment paper. Place another sheet of parchment paper over the dough and roll to 1/8-inch thick (I'd never tried this before and my thickness was way off, so the crackers were slightly chewy but still yum). Chill for an hour or more.
Preheat oven to 350F. Get dough out of the fridge and with a pizza cutter cut into uniform squares. Nudge the squares apart on the same parchment paper (if uncut) and bake till you begin to smell the crackers and the edges are lightly brown (about 12 minutes). Cool and store in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.

For the Nanaimo bars

Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free Graham Wafer Crumbs (See previous recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.

3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.