Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving dessert- With Love....

Its two days too late to write a thanksgiving dessert post. I really missed thanksgiving this year- first time in 9 years but the plus side was Diwali with Mom and Dad. What I love about Thanksgiving is all the wonderful food to cook for your family and friends. My first couple of Thanksgiving were spent with my aunt and uncle in Alfred, New York. My aunt Darshana is a fabulous cook and probably makes the best parathas on the east of the Mississippi.  She taught me the tricks and methods of cooking a huge 22lb bird and cooking for large groups of people.  Over the years I started to host Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment in Chicago. Anyone who had nowhere to go was invited- friends, neighbors, lost souls.

I would cook turkey marinated in tandoori masala for a whole day, stuffed with winter vegetables such as onions, potatoes, radishes, ocra, eggplant, whole garlic, chilies etc. I would make baked sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, pumpkin pie stuffing and cream cheese rolls, baked cauliflower (my mom's recipe), bacon wrapped shrimps. butternut squash stirred with garlic and oregano, caramelized onion pie, mash potatoes, warmed bread rolls and green bean casserole. Others would bring with them pecan pies, pumpkin pies, chocolate cakes and we would all indulge in the festivities with rounds of wine, beer, whiskey and my favourite Jagermeister over ice.

Why do I not have photos of these dinners. Well simple, when cooking for 20 people you dont have a moment to step back and take photos.
Well that was a different era. A different life.

A few days back I had the opportunity to meet Chef Faure of the famous culinary school Le Cordon Bleu at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. The Chef was in town as part of the 10 day French Pastry festival and was giving demos on pastry making and working with other Chefs and Souschefs in the Oberoi kitchen.

How to make dessert truly Masterchef style:
Chef Faure explains:
Designing a special dessert for your loved ones takes emotion, color & technique.
Conceptualise with the main ingredient.
The chef picked truffles as his ingredient for dessert for us.

Truffles! truffles! those delectable beautiful warm smelling expensive mushrooms. I've had it once before on a beautiful chicken dish but never in dessert. How how will it work? I could not wait to see this come together.

So truffles goes well in brown sauce on chicken, froi gras, so how will it work on dessert.

Well it has to be a warm sauce- it should be a caramel sauce! On some fruit like pears. The pears should be poached in sugar syrup. Leave the stem on so that it does not look like its from a can.

The soft texture of the pear contrasted with something crispy and light.
Puff pastry ofcourse!

Puff pastry with fresh pastry cream, a generous drizzle of caramel sauce with truffle bits served with a dollop of ice cream.

What a beautiful idea. If only I had the skills to bake as well. But I did photograph the chef putting it together. The chef explained the dessert in half French and half English- animated with his hands clearly passionate. After all he did make dessert for the Prince of Monaco.

Presenting Chef Faure:

The truffles
Avanika enjoying the dessert
I gave the chef a hug.. it was a beautiful dessert.
Mumbai! The view from the Oberoi
The pastry was fresh and crisp. The chef told us that puff pastry is good only for 20 minutes and hence the dessert has to be put together fast.
The sweetness of the pears and the pastry cream went smoothly with the sweetness of the caramel. The bits of truffle were earthy, crumbly that spread a warmness behind my ears.
Every bite I took I felt like Hans Landa from Inglorious Basterds as he sat across from Shoshanna chomping on the freshest strudel with the freshest cream. Coffee for himself and milk for poor poor poor Shoshanna.
Click here for the recipe.

I wanted to add something before I sign off. Two years back on Thanksgiving day I sat horrified in front of the TV as I was getting dinner ready for friends watching the 26/11 carnage unfold on the news. But today the city seems to be back to normal. It was constantly in the back of my mind, as I sat at the Oberois- the events that unfolded two years back.

I think of where I am today. I have a lot to be thankful for. I miss the wonderful friends I left behind in Chicago, New York, Texas- best friends- unconditionally for life-  many of whom I may never see again. (I hope thats not true and atleast we have skype).

Today I have a new life with new people in it- school friends, college friends, blogging friends, design friends, Ogilvians, Landorians, Wabi Sabi Women, neighbors, cousins, mom and dad, Janu and Pepper.
I have a lot to be thankful for.

Pear ‘Feuillantine’ with truffle flavored caramel sauce

Recipe as prepared by Chef Faure of the Le Cordon Bleu.

Puff pastry
300 g flour
6 g salt
50 g butter, melted
150 ml water
- - - - - - - -
200 g butter, for the tourage

Poached pears
3 pears
Sugar syrup
300 g sugar
1 litre water

Pastry cream
500 ml milk
1 vanilla bean (pod)
4 egg yolks
125 g sugar
30 g flour
30 g cornstarch (corn flour)

Truffle flavored caramel sauce
100 g sugar
20 g glucose
120 ml whipping cream
truffles, cut into brunoise

Creamy vanilla ice-cream
400 ml milk
13 g powdered milk
50 g egg yolks
90 g sugar
20 g Trimoline (inverted sugar)
1.5 g stabiliser
1 vanilla bean (pod)
70 ml whipping cream (35% fat)

Crispy tuile
100 g banana
70 g flour

1. Puff pastry: Make a classic puff pastry with 6 turns, chill until needed.

2. Roll out the pastry and cut out pear shapes. Bake in the oven preheated to 170°C for 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Poached pears: Make a sugar syrup with the sugar and water. Peel the pears, brush with
lemon juice and poach in the sugar syrup; drain and cool. Cut the pears in half lengthways,
slice and fan each half. Sprinkle pears with sugar and caramelize in a frying pan.
4. Pastry cream: Put milk and vanilla in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to a boil. Set aside.
Combine egg yolks and sugar in a large heatproof bowl and beat until pale yellow and thick.
Whisk in flour and cornstarch. Remove the vanilla bean (pod) from the milk and then whisk the
milk into the egg/sugar mixture and return to the saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat,
whisking constantly, simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat and spread pastry cream in a
shallow pan, cover with plastic wrap, leave to cool.
5. Truffle flavored caramel sauce: Prepare a dry caramel with the sugar and glucose. Stop the
cooking by adding boiling cream. Add half the truffle brunoise, set aside.
6. Creamy vanilla ice cream: Prepare the creamy vanilla ice-cream mix, churn in an ice machine
until frozen.
7. Crispy tuile: Use a metal spatula to mash the banana on a marble work surface. Incorporate
the flour. Spread the batter onto a greased silicone mat and bake in the oven preheated to 190-
200°C. Shape on a rolling pin while still hot.
8. To serve: Spread a little pastry cream onto pear shaped puff pastry, top with a caramelized
pear half. Place a quenelle of vanilla ice cream to one side and pour truffle flavored caramel
sauce onto the other. Place a crispy tuile above the pear and sprinkle with remaining truffle

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Eat Love Pray and Bake Bread

There is nothing like fresh baked bread straight out of the oven. A slice of warm bread with a shmear of butter and you are as close to heaven as possible. A couple weeks back I had the honor of hanging out with two baking goddesses- Pooja Dhingra- Le15 Patisserie of the macaron fame and Maria Goretti who writes a beautiful baking blog called eat, love, pray, laugh n hug. 
I was very excited to hang with these two ladies again. First off- I grew up watching Maria Goretti on MTV back when MTV actually prayed music that was cool. Second off- I think her husband is a fantastic actor and my younger sis Miss Cultured Purl is a big fan of his. And lastly I love hanging in the Le15 Patisserie kitchen. It is a space I love to unwind in and watching the baked goods being made in bulk is really fascinating. The smell in the kitchen is heavenly of sugar and butter and chocolate and watching Pooja work is a pleasure.
Pooja and I were both excited to learn to make bread from Maria. I for one cannot bake and was really curious to see the process. I was surprised at how simple the bread making was. And why wouldn't it be after all it is the most consumed food product in the world.
Maria - without referring to a recipe put together a fabulous basil, onion and garlic bread. Her energy was infectious and my camera loved her. She kneaded and kneaded and kneaded and slammed the dough and rolled it and let it rise and kneaded it more and slammed it and folded it and shaped it and let it rise before it went into the oven and magically became bread. Warm, soft, flaky, garlicy on the inside and a thin crunchy crust on the outside.
So here is the recipe. It is also available on Maria's blog (I think her cute 6 year old actually baked this one)

250 gm flour
15 gm fresh yeast
125-150 ml water (but i mostly use an approximate amount, depending on how its going)
1 tbsp olive oil
Pinch of salt
Pinch of Sugar
2 small onions sauteed
15 garlic cloves also sauteed
handful of basil (torn)
red chili flakes

 Start with the flour, yeast and salt and sugar.

 Pour the water slowly kneading the bread.
 Knead and knead

 Flattend and knead
 Roll and knead
 Knead till the surface is smooth like so and then roll it into a perfect ball.
 Sprinkle some flour and cover with a muslin cloth and wait 40 minutes for the 1st rising.

 Preparing the basil for the filling
 In olive oil, saute the onions and the garlic. Put aside to cool. The stuffing should be at room temperature.
 The flour almost doubled in size
 Flatten it. Keep some flour handy so that it is not too sticky.
 Place the stuffing on the flat circular flour and knead again.

 In between a hundred catering orders, Pooja picking up the tips on bread making.
 While we waited for the second rising of the bread- another 40 minutes. Maria, Pooja and I hungout with some lovely Japanese tea.
 The bread was in the oven and I could not help but photograph these beautiful babies.
So after 45 minutes at 220 degrees - this is the beautiful bread. The smell of freshly baked bread is incredible.
Aaaaaah yes! Bread & Butter. Simple but mindblowingly delicious. Nice crusty bread on the outside and beautiful warm melt in your mouth buttery goodness. The onions, basil and garlic make fantastic stuffing to the bread. On Maria's blog she has also sprinkled rosemary to the surface just before baking. I'm sure that would be wonderful.
I was also amazed with the ease with which Maria cooked in Pooja's kitchen considering the space was unfamiliar.

I took the remainder bread home with me as Maria had to leave. My mother ablsolultely loved the bread.

Before I arrived, Maria and Pooja designed this cake. I got to see the cake going out it was adorable and beautiful.

Thankyou Maria Goretti.