Monday, March 31, 2008

PBP: Peanut Butter Pear Sandwiches

These sandwiches are a favourite snack.
Any kind of pear will do. As long as it is not too ripe and retains a bite.
Unsalted crunchy peanut butter is preferred.
Snack on!

Raaga, these are coming your way; my entry to AFAM: Pear .

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Oh Crepe!

"You haven't made crepes in such a l-o-n-g time. Could you please make crepes, please please".

Such a simple request. But this guilt package was twice as heavy. First, the obvious guilt of not having made something that they enjoy so much. Second, the request was for crepes. Those ridiculously easy to make crepes.

So here I was serving up crepes for breakfast wondering why I don't make them often enough.
We've enjoyed crepes for breakfast and dessert. We once even had them for lunch at a fast food place, but those were ginormous ones stuffed with spinach, onions, cheese etc. Totally spoilt the delicateness of the crepes.
Apart from being so easy to make, they can be made ahead for time. Not only can you store the batter in the fridge for a couple of days, the crepes can be stored (separated by wax paper)for just as long. Such lifesavers.

This time I made several substitutions, replaced part of the all purpose flour with whole wheat flour, one egg with an equal measure of egg substitute, 1 tbsp of butter with a tbsp of oil. I was quite happy with the results.
The amount of sugar is greatly reduced as I much prefer to sweeten things with fruit or yogurt. Another reason for not making the crepes sweeter is that they can also be used for savoury fillings or toppings. Less work is good; especially since I'm not inclined to making two versions of the batter.

¼ cup whole wheat flour
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 eggs (or 1 egg and egg substitute for 1 egg)
½ cup milk (nonfat is ok)
2 tbsp butter, softened (or 1 tbsp butter and 1 tbsp oil)
1 tbsp sugar (or more)
pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients and run them through a blender or food processor till well combined.
Heat the pan (I use a 6-inch nonstick pan) and add a tiny dab of butter.
Pour a little less than ¼ cup of the batter in the middle of the pan.
Lift the pan and twirl the pan to spread the batter evenly, covering the entire pan.
(With just a little practice one gets the hang of it and is able to make the crepes of even thickness and avoid the supercrispy outer edge. Not that the edges are a bad thing.)
Cook for about 1 minute on medium heat. The crepe will start pull away from the sides of the pan.
Flip and cook the other side for about 45 seconds.
Makes about 8 6-inch crepes.
This recipe can be easliy doubled.

Some Variations We Enjoy
In addition to the usual yogurt and fruit (even here the permutations and combinations are endless), PBJ is good too.
A little bit of Nutella-love spread on the crepe and topped with a little chocolate sauce and some toasted nuts.
Fruit and thinned jam.
Spinach and cheese.

One day, some day I want to try this crepe-cake.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chocolate (shrug)

Around this time of the year, my son and I have a conversation which typically goes:

Me: So, what cake do you want for your birthday?
Him: Plain Chocolate. shrug (not even looking up).
Me: Filling?
Him: Chocolate. shrug (still not looking up).
Me: Frosting?
Him: Chocolate. My usual. Why change a good thing? (Can't argue with that).
I thought our conversation ended here, but moments later he continued (finally making eye contact) 'This time, how about chocolate-hazelnut with a bit of coffee in there somewhere?'

Aww, me boy is growing up!

Though this is without doubt our most favourite cake, it was never requested by the kids as the birthday cake. The cake is not too sweet but is moderately rich. The hazelnut flavour is just fantastic.

I found this recipe scribbled on a wee piece of paper tucked in my copy of Joy of Cooking. The recipe was in all likelihood jotted down from a book (sigh, don't remember which one) when browsing thru books in the local public library.

I usually use hazelnut meal but if I take the time to buy the nuts, roast, and grind them, I'm amply rewarded.

Most often, I make a chocolate-ganache which acts as the frosting and the filling. This time I made a chocolate-coffee frosting (recipe below) which turned out to be just right. So incredibly flavourful, full of that coffee-chocolate taste; a perfect foil for the hazelnut cake.

Hazelnut-Chocolate Cake
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups turbinado sugar (see Notes below)
2 large eggs
1 ¾ cup all purpose flour
1/3 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ¼ cup sour cream (low fat is ok but not fat-free)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped toasted hazelnuts or hazelnut meal(see Notes below)
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips or 3 oz coarsely chopped dark chocolate.

Grease the baking pans (one bundt, two 8inch round pans, or one 13x8 pan).
Preheat the oven to 350C.
Combine the flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
Cream the butter and sugar till well blended and fluffy.
Add and beat the eggs, one at a time.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the dry ingredients to the butter-egg mixture alternately with the sour cream.
Stir in the chopped hazelnuts and chocolate.
Pour the batter in the prepared pan(s) and bake 35 mins (25 mins if using two pans) or till a toothpick inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean.

Instead of the turbinado sugar, 1 cup packed brown sugar can be used as well. But the turbinado sugar is preferred as it adds a bit of a crunch.
You can increase the amount of the hazelnut up to 1½ cups; proportionately decrease the quantity of the flour. If you increase the hazelnut any more, the cake doesn't hold well; been there, done that.

Chocolate-Coffee Frosting
1 cup whipping cream, chilled
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp instant coffee powder
1 tsp coffee liqueur

Mix all the ingredients and beat on medium speed for about 1-2 minutes (or till the mixture gets stiff enough for spreading).
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