Category Archives: chocolate

The ‘We Knead to Bake Project’ 2013 – Torcettini di St. Vincent

I’ve always dreaded the third time I undertake any project, there usually seems to be a jinx associated after that.. 3 weeks of working out in the gym, or following a dietary regimen, three baking tasks etc. . the ‘We knead to bake project was no exception. Even as  I took it lightly that the 24th of the month was some ways of, BAM!.. it crept up before I knew it and I had no cookies to show for it. Of course there was no way I was going to let a bad case of the common cold let me miss this session, so better late than never, Here is the recipe that Aparna Balasubramanian picked out for April – Torcettini di St. Vincent.
So what is a Torcettini? Its believed that the cookie originated as a variation of the classic Italian breadstick, the Grissini. A baker in Valle d’Aosta had some leftover butter that he decided to incorporate into  his last batch of dough,shaped it into a twist, and rolled it in sugar to differentiate it from the regular bread sticks & voila, the torcettini was born. The cookies probably soared in popularity when Queen Margaret, the wife of King Umberto of Savoy, loved these so much that she directed her kitchen staff to always keep an abundant supply of the ingredients to make this whenever she wanted.

The cookies have a lovely crunchy exterior that gives way to a chewy center, reminiscent of pretzels except that they are sweet from the sugar crystals with just a touch of saltiness from the dough.


Torcettini di Saint Vincent:

(Adapted from ‘A Baker’s Tour’ by Nick Malgieri)

You need:

1/2 cup warm water, about 110F

1 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (or 1 tsp instant yeast)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoon cocoa powder (if making chocolate torcettini)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon lime/ lemon zest (replace with orange zest for the chocolate version)
40gm unsalted butter, cold and cut into small pieces
about 1/3 cup  Turbinado cane sugar for rolling the cookies

Method:


Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, in a small bowl and keep aside.

Put the flour and the salt in the food processor bowl (or a largish regular bowl if kneading by hand) and pulse a couple of times to mix. Add the butter pieces and pulse until the butter is well mixed and the flour-butter mixture looks powdery.

If making chocolate Torcettini, remove 2 tbsp all-purpose flour and add the 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder mentioned in the recipe. Don’t add the lemon zest/ anise. Use orange zest and maybe add 1/ 2 tsp instant coffee powder with the flour.
Add the yeast-water mixture and pulse till it all comes together as a ball. Do not over process or knead. Place the ball of dough in a oiled bowl, turning it so it is well coated with the oil. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rise quite a bit.
This dough does not really double in volume, but it should look “puffy” after about an hour or so. When you pinch off a bit from the top you can see the interior looking a bit like honeycomb. Press down the dough and deflate it, wrap it in plastic film and refrigerate it for at least an hour or up to 24 hours.

 

When ready to make the cookies, take the dough out and lightly roll it out into an approximately 6” square. If the dough feels sticky, scatter a little sugar on it. Using a pizza wheel cut the dough into four strips of equal width. Cut each strip into 6 equal pieces, by cutting across, making a total of 24 pieces. The measurements are not very critical in this part because this just makes it easier to have 24 equal sized bits of dough, as compared to pinching of bits of the dough.

Roll each piece into a pencil thick “rope” about 5” long. Sprinkle a little sugar on your work surface and roll the “rope” in it so the sugar crusts the dough uniformly. Form the “rope” into a loop crossing it over before the ends.

Place the Torcettini on parchment lined baking sheets, leaving 1 1/2″ between them. Leave them for about 20 minutes or so till they rise/ puff up slightly. Don’t worry, they will not “puff up” much.

Bake them at 160C (325F) for about 25 minutes till they’re a nice golden brown. Cool the cookies completely, on a rack. Store them in an air-tight container at room temperature.


  Serve as a tea time snack with a piping hot cup of Cafe au Lait or tea.

Bon Appetit!

Some tips to keep in mind:
Once your Torcettini have been shaped, don’t let them rise for longer than 20 minutes. If you do, your Torcettini will more bread-like on the inside due to the extra “rise”.
  To make sure the Torcettini dough does not rise for more than 20 minutes, it’s a good idea to work on shaping the 2ndbatch while the first batch is in the oven.

A Gorgeous set of Pewter measuring spoons I picked up at my neighborhood yard sale!

This recipe is being Yeastspotted.

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‘Karupatti’ Kaapi Brownies with Fresh Raspberries

You know you're passionate about something like blogging when missing out on one post for  a week sends you into a spiral of guilt & blanked out grey matter. The confusion, nagging feeling of  the high that invariably kicks in once you click on the orange 'Publish' button.

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Love, Indian ‘ishtyle’ – Masala Milk Truffles

For those of you readers in India.. Remember those old Everest Milk Masala ads & jingles? of prospective brides trying to impress potential parents-in- law by serving them Masala Milk? Well, I tried to look up some on You Tube but those old ones were nowhere to be found. Instead, there were new ones still revolving around the theme of family & love like this one in Marathi.

Masala Milk is a comfort food of the liquid variety that is popular all over India, irrespective of language or state. Scaling hot milk evaporated down to incorporate caramelized threads of milk solids and sweetened with sugar & coarsely crushed pistachio & almonds.

What is it about Masala Milk that evokes love, caring & sharing? Perhaps, Its the comforting offering of nutritious milk, or the rich sharing of nuts, which are not easy to come  by for most families. You just have to read this article by Raghavan Iyer to understand what I’m trying to convey.
 
O.K, so Valentine’s day doesn’t exactly refer to family love.. its more of a romantic notion.. well, then just go look up any cheesy Bollywood movie referring to post wedding nuptials, and you’re bound to come across  a shy bride entering the bedecked bedroom holding a pitcher in her hands along with a couple of silver glasses.. Anybody wanna guess what it contains? Yep… Masala milk.. How much more mush  & romance do you want me to yap on about??

On the other hand, Valentines day is intrinsically woven into that avatar of ambrosia, Theobroma cacao, a.k.a Chocolate, and chocolate boutiques & brands make a killing selling these divine morsels. (I bet they were all in it together & simply appointed Hallmark cards to take the lead & declare Feb 14th as a day dedicated to love).

If this blog post won’t get you HOOKED onto chocolate, I don’t know what will. I mean, just look at those pictures.. Yes, I may be borderline star struck after last weeks taping session with Kelsey Nixon, She is such a bubbly and charming person in real life. The Perfect 3 opportunity definitely gave me the confidence to attempt dishes that I would have passed on in favor of easier ones. What better ingredient to start than with Chocolate, the flavor of the month. So here it is, a fusion of love offerings from 2 different cultures..The Masala Milk truffle.

The center filling is a white chocolate ganache flavored with Chai spice blend and powdered toasted pistachio & almonds.

Chai Spice blend

Masala Milk Truffles: (makes ~ 32)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon Chai spice blend (follow the link above for the recipe)
1 packet white chocolate baking chips (11 oz)
1 packet Dark chocolate chips (11 oz)

Crystals of Thai Ginger flavored salt or Pink Himalayan salt 

Method:

Crush the toasted pistachio & almonds into a semi fine consistency and mix thoroughly. Measure 1/3 cup of the combined mixture and reserve. Add the white chocolate chips to the 1/3 cup of nut blend & combine in a glass mixing bowl.

Add the chai spice blend to the heavy cream and heat until the cream just comes to a boil. Immediately lower the heat to a minimum and simmer the cream mixture for about 5-10 minutes to allow the spice blend to release its flavors. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
 

Strain the spiced cream into the white chocolate chip blend. stir to melt the chocolate completely (feel free to heat in the microwave for 30 seconds extra) to obtain a smooth texture (well almost, the powdered nuts add a lovely graininess to the ganache). Cover the surface with cling wrap and refrigerate till cooled & firm. (about 1 hr)

Using a melon baller, scoop the ganache and roll it into marbles. freeze until solid (at least 2 hrs).

Those Cocktail Idli steamer plates are perfect for holding the ganache!

Add the dark chocolate chips into a heat proof bowl and melt over a saucepan of simmering water. When the chocolate has completely melted, dunk the spiced ganache marbles into the dark chocolate and coat all over. Gently place on a tray lined with wax paper to set. Once the shell hardens, transfer the truffles into paper cups , garnish with the salt crystals and refrigerate in a dry container.

This is how the cut up cross section looks..

As for the remaining melted chocolate, just add about 2 -3 oz of  boiling water along with 2 teaspoons of orange zest and whip furiously over ice cubes to get a serving of this totally insane mousse.. Follow this link for the original genius recipe.

Wishing every one of you a wonderful Valentine’s day filled with love from near & dear ones.