Category Archives: confection

Countdown Day 6, and Food52’s Secret Santa Swap!

When it comes to gifts under the tree, I think I morphed into a child as much as my kids, if not worse.. (I ‘m officially guilty of tearing open into my secret Santa Gift on Christmas Eve, rather than the next day morning). My gift was from my Secret Santa ‘gingerroot’ from Hawaii. She is a Food52 superstar, having contributed some timeless classic recipes to their two volume book.
For the past two years, ‘Enbe’ a graduate student from Tuscon has been instrumental in organizing a wonderful Secret Santa food swap amongst members of the Food52 community. She sends us each a name amongst those who’ve signed up and we have the privilege of sharing foods (mostly cookies and condiments) and little gifts with someone with whom we’ve forged a bond online through Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs’ unique venture.

I loved each and every thing that gingerroot had so thoughtfully put together in my box.  A bag of the biggest & best Macadamia nuts, Native Hawaiian raw honey, chocolate a ginger citrus soap (which my 7 yr old laid claim to and immediately ran off to jump into the shower, just so that he could use it!) , home made cookies which my three yr old went for even before she opened her presents from Santa, and a bottle each  of Yellow tomato/pineapple & eggplant preserves. Thank you so much Jenny, for making this holiday season so special!

It was love at first taste with the pineapple preserve. So much so, my head cannot decide on how many things I should use it on . For starters, I made a batch of ‘easy peasy’ thumbprint shortbread cookies that really showcased this delectable jam. This is also my birthday recipe gift for my Aunt, Lakshmi Ramanathan (Chithi as I call her) who turns a young  60 today.

A shout out is also owed to Perfect purees of Napa Valley for their awesome Caramelized Pineapple concentrate . A tablespoon of this excellent ingredient in the shortbread dough, really highlights the preserves.

Thumbprint shortbread cookies with Yellow tomato & pineapple preserves (makes about 30)

You need:

1  cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons Caramelized pineapple concentrate ( or 1 tablespoon of orange zest)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
 Your choice of  preserves

 Preheat oven to 300 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour along with the concentrate/  zest. Using your finger tips, gently work the butter into the flour until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Bring the dough together into a ball. Using a cookie scoop divide the dough into little spheres of about 1 inch diameter. Place on the baking sheet 2 inches apart from each other,  gently press down with a 1/4 tsp measuring spoon to make a little well.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes (at this time, the cookie would have risen, obliterating the well. remove and press down with the same spoon to make the indentation before turning the sheet around and placing back into the oven for another 10 minutes. Remove and cool for 5 minutes on the sheet before  spooning 1/4 teaspoon of the preserves into the wells. Allow to cool completely.

Here’s wishing you a fabulous 60th Birthday, Lakshmi Chithi!


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Celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi with ‘Madhu Golakas’ (Modak)’

Ganesha, the Lord of auspicious beginnings is indubitably the most cheerful god in the Hindu Pantheon.Short, rotund and pot-bellied with an elephants head, he is regarded as the governing deity of intellect and wisdom. Hindus the world over celebrate his ‘birthday’ . I’m incapable of explaining the details of the significance of this delightful god, so I’m just going to direct you to this link from Dr. Devdutt Pattanaiks website.

Ganesha is depicted as holding a bowl of ‘modaks’ in his left hand. These sweet confections resemble little bags of money. These modaks are basically a sweet filling with either a fried wrapping made out of wheat flour or a steamed variety with a covering made of rice flour dough. The word modak is thought to be a corruption of the Sanskrit Madhu golaka (Madhu- sweet/ honey; golaka: sphere / ball).

Getting ready to make the steamed version always induced a low level anxiety in my mother every year. She used to say that the lord’s mood determined if the modaks (or kozhakattai, as they are known in Tamil) would emerge perfectly steamed or turned out to be a disintegrated mess. The solution: always make a tiny ‘Ganesha’ by pinching a bit of dough between the thumb, index and middle finger.

The toughest part of making the modak is getting the rice flour dough right. too much water and the dough does not wrap itself well around the filling, too little and the skin cracks up while steaming.
The modaks invariably are made in odd numbers, usually 11, 21 and usually the amount of rice flour made far exceeds the amount of filling. The remaining dough is then seasoned with  mustard, asafetida, chile and curry leaf. The mix is ‘pinched’ off into tiny bits and then steamed to make what are known as ‘ammini’ or ‘mani’ kozhakattai. These tiny morsels are highly addictive, don’t know why, they just are!

Modaks (Sweet & Savory)

Sweet Coconut and almond filling:

You need:
3/4 cup fresh frozen grated coconut, thawed
1/4 cup sliced almonds, crushed roughly
1/2 cup crumbled Jaggery (Gud / Panela)
1 teaspoon crushed cardamom seeds
1/4 cup water

Combine the water and the crushed jaggery in a glass bowl and microwave for one minute till the jaggery dissolves. Transfer into a skillet along with the coconut and almonds. Cook down until the moisture evaporates, but before the sugar hardens. Stir in the cardamom and remove from heat. Set aside to cool. Roll into small 1/2 inch spheres.


Savory Urad Dal filling

1/2 cup dehusked split urad dal
2 red arbol chilies
a pinch of asafetida
salt to taste,
5-6 torn curry leaves
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

Soak the Urad dal for an hour in hot water. Drain the water, combine the dal with the chile, asafetida, salt and curry leaves. Grind into a semi-smooth batter . Heat oil in a non stick skillet, add the mustard seeds. when they sputter, add the urad dal batter and over low heat, stir the mixture until the moisture evaporates and the dal resembles large crumbs. remove from heat and allow to cool. shape into oblongs about an inch long.

Rice flour dough for the covering:

1 1/2 cups rice flour
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup milk
pinch of salt.

Sift the rice flour with the salt into a large & deep mixing bowl. mixing the dough by hand is excruciatingly painful, not to mention the very high possibility of obtaining a lumpy ball of dough that is terrible to shape. I found this fool proof technique to eliminate lumps and the occasional dislocated shoulder. *Drumrolls*. A Kitchenaid Hand mixer.. , yes the kind you use to whip eggs for a cake  (except this operation uses the dough hooks).
Fit a hand mixer with the dough hook attachment. With the mixer set at a low speed, slowly add 1 cup of the boiling water into the rice flour mixing it simultaneously. Add the milk gradually. The mix should now come together into a pliable ball of dough. If its still crumbly, add the remaining water teaspoon by teaspoon with the mixer running until it comes together.

To assemble the modaks, grease your fingertips and your left palm liberally with oil. Pinch off a dollop of dough, roll into a sphere and gently  rub the dough with the oiled fingertips into forming  a thin 2 inch circle. place the filling in the center of the flattened dough, and gently fold the edges of the rice flour ‘skin’ to completely cover the filling. pinch the top of the modak to form a peak. remove any extra bits and mix with the remaining dough. Set aside and repeat until the filling is finished. For the urad dal fillings the dough is wrapped over the filling to obtain a semicircular shape. Pinch the circumference of the semicircle to seal.

 

 Heat about an 1/2 inch of water in a large pan (wide enough to fit a steamer).  Gently place the modaks on the steamer and steam them for 15 minutes.

Sweet modaks

Savory Modaks (yes, this one looked like a little white rhino!)

Remove from the steamer onto a plate, allow to cool slightly before tucking in.

Ammini (Mani) Kozhakattai:

Heat a tablespoon of oil, add a teaspoon of mustard seeds (allow to sputter), salt and your choice of seasonings ad add them into any remaing dough. Fold in to combine. pinch of teeny bits with your fingers and gently place them on the steaming tray. Steam for 10 minutes until the dough ‘firms up’.

Bon appetit! Here’s wishing everyone auspicious & lucky new beginnings in whatever you’re planning to do!