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Salted Caramel and Ganache Brownie Trifles

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Last week, I introduced a new class at the Studio. Try as I might, to juggle all the classes I run because they are popular and the ones I . want to do because I love teaching them, I fail to accommodate new ones as often as I would like to.

This week, I decided I would sacrifice one of the more popular ones for one that I have been wanting to do ever since everything stuffed into glass jars of all sizes and shapes became the rage. So anyway, I chose a few things that I had not taught before, because a large part of my students do come for multiple classes and I feel guilty if they’re learning something similar to what they’ve already done.

The Brownie trifle is fairly easy. One can make all the components well ahead of time and assemble them as and when needed. That’s the beauty of pre portioned desserts. Serving it up too is absolutely mess free.

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There are four components to this dessert – the brownie (pick your favourite one or use the recipe below), salted caramel sauce, simple chocolate ganache and whipped cream. Add or remove any element you don’t have or don’t like and voila! God level dessert at your fingertips!

Chocolate Brownie (Makes a flat 9 inch brownie)

100 grams Dark chocolate (melted)

½ cup Butter

¾ cup Brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon Instant Coffee powder

2 teaspoons vanilla essence

1 cup Flour (maida)

½ teaspoon Baking powder

½ teaspoon Salt

2 tablespoons Cocoa powder

Sift the maida with baking powder, salt and cocoa powder and set aside.

Add the melted chocolate and butter to a bowl and microwave it for 1 minute or till melted.

Add the sugar and stir. When cooled off a bit, add the eggs and vanilla and beat really well.

Stir in the flour mixture, mix gently without over mixing to form a thick batter. Pour into a greased and lined 9 inch pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 25-26 minutes.

Cool before cutting into pieces for the dessert.

Salted Caramel Sauce (Makes 1 ½ cups)

1/3 cup salted butter

½ cup cream

1 cup fine castor sugar

2 tablespoons water

In a heavy bottom saucepan, heat the water and sugar till it comes to a bubble. Do this on low heat, do not stir. Shake the pan if needed. Keep cooking on the lowest heat till the sugar starts to caramelise a light golden colour. Take care not to burn the sugar.

Turn off the heat once it becomes golden and add the butter to it. Mix gently with a whisk to melt the butter. Then add the cream and mix. Return to the lowest heat and mix till it everything has mixed well. Take it off the heat and cool completely before using. It will become thicker as it cools.

Chocolate Ganache (Makes 1 cup)

1 cup Cream + ⅛ cup milk

1 cup Chopped Dark chocolate

Heat the cream till it bubbles, do not boil. Add the chopped chocolate to the cream, mix gently and set aside. The heat of the cream will melt the chocolate. Once it has come to room temperature, gently mix to make sure there are no lumps. Use as needed.

2 Cups Sweetened Whipped Cream

1 cup Heavy whipping cream

4-6 teaspoons confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla essence

A pinch of salt

Chill the cream overnight. Chill a stainless steel bowl and the beaters of the hand whisk as well. Shake the cream in the unopened carton well and pour into the chilled bowl. Beat on medium speed till it begins to form soft peaks. Add the salt, sugar and vanilla and beat till it forms stiff peaks. Transfer to a piping bag with a star nozzle fitted (optional) and refrigerate until needed.

To assemble the dessert

Chop the brownie into bite sized pieces. Have all the ingredients ready. Add the whipped cream into a piping bag with a star nozzle.

Add one layer of brownie pieces to the glass jar, drizzle some chocolate ganache, Add 2 tablespoons of caramel sauce and top with whipped cream.

Repeat with another layer. Drizzle some more caramel sauce on the top for garnish.

Chill at least 30 minutes before serving.

{Eating Out ~ New Menu Review} Le Cafe, Novotel, Hitech City

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Le Cafe

Le Cafe

Cafes and I go back a long way. I’ve spent time at them waiting, courting, reflecting, absorbing and grieving. Every verb attached to an emotion that can exist has been experienced over the last two decades at coffee shops by me. I love them with company and they are ideal places to get lost with your thoughts, books or for that matter in today’s times, a screen. There are the ones run by chains, which look and feel familiar across most cities and then the stand alone ones with a charm of their own.

Novotel at Hitech City in Hyderabad has a lovely, sunny (air conditioned) side walk style cafe in the hotel premises and I was invited to sample their new menu offerings last week.

The timing was perfect, tea time and I walked in and was seated at the seemingly small but surprisingly uncongested cafe. It is built like the many sidewalk cafes across Europe and particularly France and is situated on the left of the main entrance. Tho Le Cafe occupies the corridor between the hotel and the convention centre. It has plenty of seating with tables and chairs nicely spaced. Open from 6:30 AM till midnight, Le Cafe has a wide choice of bakes, pastries, short eats like sandwiches and a good selection of beverages.

Previously the cafe had an ever changing menu. Which included promotionals for special occasions such as Valentine’s Day and seasonal offerings to incorporate seasonal produce such as Mangoes during season. Now the menu operates in three ways, displayed as a small standee on each table, comprising of made to order sandwiches, wraps and beverages, a black board display of the bakes and desserts available adorning the walls of the cafe and baked offerings in the display units, with prices mentioned, which change daily.

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The selection is very extensive for a Cafe and includes Sandwiches and Wraps, Salads, Baked Goodies, Made to order Cakes, Cookies and Macarons, Made to order menu all-day breakfast, Icecreams, Beverages etc.

Macarons ~ in many flavours

Macarons ~ in many flavours

We begin with a bunch of macarons. Delicate meringue sandwiched with pastry cream in an assortment of flavours. Cardamom and coconut – reminiscent of old world biscuits to be dunked in tea, a little strong on flavours. Saffron – delicate and subtle. Blueberry – my favourite of the lot, just the right balance of fruit, cream and crunch.

Chocolate Fudge Cookie

Chocolate Fudge Cookie

Next up from the variety of cookies that include oat and raisin and granola cookies, I tried the Chocolate Fudge Cookie – its decadent, dense and very deeply chocolatey in a nice way.

Le Cafe entices you with a range of baked goodies like several variants of croissants and doughnuts, glazed with chocolate or dusted with cinnamon sugar, made in house and fresh each day. The rows upon rows of pastries make one feel like a child in a candy shop. Colours, flavours and the promise of indulgence.

Chicken Sausage Strudel and Mushroom & Cheese Quiche

Chicken Sausage Strudel and Mushroom & Cheese Quiche

The Mushroom and Cheese Quiche – stellar – crisp tart shell, creamy and delicious filling, lovely flavours of the mushroom and melted cheese coming through. This is a must try. The second savoury bake I try pales in comparison. A Chicken sausage strudel made of puff pastry, the layers of puff pastry are perfect but the filling does not live up to its promise. They are priced at Rs. 120 for a serving.

Chicken Tikka Sandwich

Chicken Tikka Sandwich

They have a range of made to order breakfasts which are served all day and there is a wide range of wraps and sandwiches that can be had with a choice of bread – Panini, whole grain, multigrain or sandwich. I tasted the Chicken tikka sandwich. It is a large portion priced at Rs. 300 and comes with a side of potato wafers. Succulent pieces of chicken tikka, lots of mayonnaise and some other sauces, I think there was cheese also and it was grilled to perfection. The fillings are interesting and one can choose from cheese and mustard, achari paneer and tomato bocconcini amongst the others. The chef at the counter will put together your order on the spot. Le Cafe also has a range of fresh salads one can order.

Decadent Pastries and Desserts

Decadent Pastries and Desserts

The indulgent pastry and dessert menu is hopeless to resist. A very dense and yet delightfully satisfying flourless chocolate pastry (apt for those who are on a gluten free diet).

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

There is the famed Tiramisu – Indulgent mascarpone layered with coffee drenched savoiradi cookies, best indulged in small portions because of its richness.

Decadent Desserts and Pastries

Decadent Desserts and Pastries

The white chocolate and raspberry slice – a mousse that comes in a block and the pistachio pop cake with blueberry dome – pistachio sponge filled with blueberry mousse though are very goodlooking desserts, they do not live up to their looks. I was disappointed particularly by the flavour and dryness of the pistachio dessert.

The deeply satisfying Opera Cake

The deeply satisfying Opera Cake

The stand out pastry for me was the Opera Cake, slivered layers of Almond jaconde (sponge) soaked with coffee syrup and layered with chocolate ganache and coffee buttercream. The knock out melded flavours and textures are worth every calorie they hold.

Its a great option to catch up with a friend, for a casual date or just to spend time alone with a cup of coffee and a nibble appropriate for the time of day. Their range of beverages ranges from many kinds of coffees, teas and smoothies and shakes. The cafe also has free WiFi which is useful if one is hanging out alone.

The prices for the baked goodies range from Rs. 60- 150 which is very reasonable considering they are housed in a five star hotel. Wraps and sandwiches are about Rs. 300 each, desserts and pastries are from Rs. 150-200 and beverages are Rs. 170 onwards.

They also have a range of ice creams and you can order for fresh custom made cakes which are upwards of 500 grams. They also sell a range of breads like Ciabatta, Baguettes and Rye bread by the loaf.

I enjoyed the range of options Le Cafe offers and have marked it as a place to catch up with friends over coffee the next time I need to meet someone. The ambience is calm and peaceful, for the price they charge is much more sophisticated than a noisy coffee bistro.

 Le Cafe

Recomended Dishes: Chicken tikka sandwich, Opera Cake, Mushroom and Cheese Quiche

Timings: 6:30 AM till Midnight

Price: The prices begin at Rs. 60 and go upto Rs. 300

Location: Novotel Hotel, HICC Complex, Hitex road, Kothaguda, Hyderabad

Credit Card Accepted: Yes

Valet Parking: Available

Telephone: 040 66824422

PS: The meal was complimentary as I was invited by the hotel to the restaurant, however the views are my own.

Valentine Day Recipes

heartcupcake

Chocolate lovers rejoice!

Mini Chocolate and Strawberry Trifles

Boozey Chocolate Tarts (yes booze makes everything better)

Oreo Brownies

Cake Pops

Chocolate Cheese Cake

Chocolate Valentino Cake 

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Frosting 

Chocolate Truffles

 

Non Chocolatey stuff but still terrific!

Sweetheart Cookies 

Orange and Vanilla Cupcakes

Vanilla Custard with Pears poached in Orange Sauce

White Chocolate Pannacotta with Raspberry Sauce

Eggless Star Anise Icecream with Strawberry Compote

Valentine’s Breakfast Ideas

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Multigrain herb and cheese rolls

Nutella and Fresh Fruit Dessert Pizza

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Nutella and Fruit Pizza

Nutella and Fruit Pizza

For some reason, I am terribly preoccupied these days. I lose track of what I was doing and the only way to stay sane is my multiple to-do lists. I am spending a lot less time at the laptop, but my phone bills are testimony to the amount of time I am connected online, monitoring the FB page and emails and other stuff.

Such is my preoccupation, that on the last trip to the bank, I wasted not one, but three cheque leaves because I either entered wrong numbers or signed where I wasn’t supposed to! I spend over 45 minutes gazing at the stuff on the shelves in the supermarket and will forget to bring home something basic like sugar. Not that I am overworked, I am just forgetting stuff.

I’ve been posting recipes here with a lot more frequency than this blog is used to, and yet forgot to tell you something important that I am part of. Sometime in March, when I went to Goa on vacation and met up with two of my favourite bloggers Aparna and Revati, we decided to finally make a blogger’s meet happen. We had been talking about it for a couple of years, but this time we decided to stop talking and start doing. If you are connected with me via FB you will know, that the first ever Indian Food Blogger Meet is happening in Bangalore. It will be held in August on 1-2 and promises to be a two day celebration of blogging and bloggers. We have a lot of interesting and useful session lined up and I cannot even tell you how excited I am that an idea that I had in my head is actually taking shape in front of my eyes. If you want to know more about this, connect with us on FB or follow us on twitter. We even have a blog which will have all the updates.

For each one of us involved, with a different sensibility, skill set, located in a different city, with multiple things happening in our offline lives, yet we have managed to do all the main things and invite people who will add value by sharing their blogging journey. There is a lot more to do in terms of typing up loose ends, but the agenda has been put together after much thought and aimed to be of value to the participants. I am delighted that speakers, some of them very respected bloggers are travelling from across the country to be at this meet. If you are a blogger and would like to be a part of this, here is the information on how you can participate.

Thank you for the overwhelming response to the post about Amma’s operation. I am happy to update that she is recovering well and is active. Each comment both here and on FB was read to her and she has expressed her thanks. I had friends and family calling me all through the day of the operation. My classmate from college when to a temple and dedicated 1008 chants to her, Amma’s best friend was at the Kanakadurga temple at Vijayawada when I texted to tell her that everything went well and offered special prayers in thanksgiving. Some friends and family woke up at 4 AM and prayed through the time of her procedure. Aunty E was praying and waiting by the telephone for an update. My MIL stayed by my side, carrying water and sandwiches that FIL had made so that I would have moral support.  I am overwhelmed with the goodwill that Amma enjoys. Whatever be your faith, the circle of love, prayers, healing energies and spirit enveloped us as a family and Amma especially is something I am extremely grateful for it.

After all that heavy duty information sharing, here is a fun recipe that will be a hit for a child’s birthday party or as an adult dessert option/ after school snack or a treat for good behaviour 😀

Nutella and Fruit Pizza

Nutella and Fruit Pizza

Fruit and Nutella Whole-wheat Pizza (Makes 2 personal pizzas)

Whole-wheat flour     11/2 cups

Instant yeast     1 teaspoon

Sugar     1 teaspoon

Milk     ½ cup

Water     ½ cup

Butter     1 tablespoon

Nutella     4 tablespoons

Fresh fruit     11/2 cup (use mango, banana, strawberries, apples or any other firm seasonal fruit)

Dried nuts     a sprinkling

Warm the water and the milk to the same temperature used to set yogurt. Add the sugar and yeast, stir and set aside till the mixture is frothy and doubles up. This should take about 10-15 minutes

The yeast must activate for this recipe. If the yeast does not froth, the pizza won’t be puffy and soft.

Mix the flour with the salt. Add the milk and yeast mixture to the flour and knead into a dough. It should be softer than chapati dough, but not soggy.

Put the dough onto a surface with some dry flour and knead it gently for 3-4 minutes till it becomes soft and spongy. Add the butter and knead it completely.

Put it in a clean bowl, cover with foil or a damp clean towel and let it rise to double, for about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Prepare a baking sheet by brushing it with vegetable oil.

Divide the doubled up dough into two or three parts. Make it into a round ball and flatten gently. Sprinkle with some dry flour and roll into a round, like a roti. The thickness of this should be about ⅓ inch. Prick it with a fork and place it on the baking sheet.

Repeat with the remaining dough and place on the baking sheet so that the pizzas don’t touch each other.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 6-7 minutes.

Spread nutella on the top of the cooked pizza, arrange fresh cut fruit on top, sprinkle the nuts. Cut into triangles and serve immediately.

 

Mango cupcakes with mango buttercream frosting

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Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

I am nothing if not a mango fiend. I brave the summers in Hyderabad only because of the fabulous array of mangoes we get here. The most popular and commercially successful one is the Banaganapalli. While my favourites are Shakkar gutli (a small apple sized mango that is sweet as sugar – shakkar +sugar) and Imampasand for its flavour, the humble banaganapalli is a good fruit to use in bakes and desserts.

I made my basic vanilla cupcake recipe and swapped out the vanilla for a dash of mango essence and pulp. The result was a moist, subtle mango cupcake. I went a few steps further and slapped on some mango flavoured buttercream. My mantra seems to be “when in doubt, go the whole hog”

I made this for a party and it was a huge hit. Try this with fresh mango pulp while the last of the season slowly inches out or with frozen if you cannot get fresh mangoes in your part of the world.

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes (makes 12 medium ones)

½ cup unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cup sugar (I used regular sugar, powdered for ease of mixing)

2 eggs ( use 3 tablespoons of plain yogurt for an egg-less variant)

1 teaspoon mango essence

1 ½ cup all purpose flour

1 ½ teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of mango puree (mango pieces chopped and pureed in a blender with a splash of water)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenhiet or 175 Celsius and line muffin trays with paper liners

Cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy. Add the yogurt (or eggs, beating well after each addition) and beat well. Beat in the mango essence.

In another bowl, whisk the flour with salt, baking soda and baking powder

Add the mango puree and flour to the butter-sugar mixture alternately, beginning and ending with flour.

Evenly fill the paper liners with batter and bake for 18-20 minutes or till a tester comes out clean.

Leave to cool on a wire rack before frosting.

Edited to add: Sometimes the consistency of the mango pulp/ puree can make the batter thicker than desired. Adding 2-3 tablespoons of milk / water to the batter to get cake batter consistency will help.

For the mango butter-cream frosting

1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature

11/2 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar / icing sugar

1/2 teaspoon mango essence

1 pinch of salt

1/2 cup mango puree

Whip the butter for 1 minute on medium speed with a hand whisk/ blender until creamy. Add the sugar in 2-3 batches and whip on low speed till it has mixed well. Add the salt, essence and mango puree and mix till blended. Use as required. If the buttercream is too runny, add upto 3/4 cup more icing sugar to make piping consistency.

I used a star tip nozzle to pipe swirls on the cooled cupcakes. Added a few slivers of chopped fresh mango as garnish.

 

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

Mango Cupcakes with Mango Butter-cream

 

Beat the Heat series ~ Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

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Remember when as children, everyone strained their ears for the tinkle of the bell that the ice cream vendor would sound? Kids would rush out and pick their favourite frozen treat. Popsicles are by far one of the easiest things to make. It is as simple as making a fruit crush/ juice and freezing it and doesn’t need any specific recipe. They are also one of the best ways to beat the summer heat. I tried my hand at quite a few of them recently for an article I was writing and was quite happy at how simple it was to make them with whatever fruit is lying about at home. Devoid of artificial colour and excess sugar, these make for a nice treat.

Kulfi or ice cream moulds with the sticks are easily available in metal or plastic in supermarkets or any store selling utensils. They are also inexpensive to buy. Make sure the mould is filled right till the top for it to freeze better. If the moulds are unavailable, plastic disposable cups can be used with an ice cream stick stuck in the middle. These ice cream sticks are easily available in most grocery store.

I made a mint tea by boiling fresh mint leaves in a little bit of water as K does not like whole or crushed mint leaves except in a chutney. I think adding fresh mint leaves as they are will add a nice contrast to the popsicle, so do try it out if your family is less picky than mine!

Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

Watermelon Mojito Popsicles

Watermelon Mojito Popsicle (Makes 6 medium popsicles)

2 cups Watermelon chunks (deseeded)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons white rum

1/4 cup water boiled with 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves and 1/4 cup sugar to make a simple syrup, strain out the mint leaves and use the syrup.

Method

Chop the watermelon and remove the seeds. Add all the ingredients in a blender jar and blend till it is smooth.

Pour this equally into the popsicle moulds and close with the lid. If not using the moulds, divide equally between 4 paper cups and place a wooden stick in the middle.

Freeze for at least 8 hours for best results. Rub the moulds between the palms to warm it slightly and pull the stick gently to unmould. Enjoy it immediately.

Beat the Heat Series ~ Rose Falooda

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Rose Falooda

Rose Falooda

This blogging is a dangerous activity, yes it brings you in touch with like minded people, you make friends, you connect offline, but it also means that you can get quite obsessed with making / cooking what someone else is eating because you are bombarded with pictures or descriptions!

R of Hungry and Excited blog, was talking nonstop for a couple of days about replacing her meals with Falooda that she made at home to combat the heat and I was insanely jealous. I usually make falooda at home. We love having it to beat the hot summers here in Hyderabad. There are also a lot of popular places where one can have falooda that people flock to. But it was past 10:30 PM and I didn’t have ice cream on hand so I made K drive me to the nearest place and slurped more than sipped this sickeningly sweet but yummy drink/ dessert.

kesar falooda

kesar falooda

We had the special kesar falooda with dry fruit. The other popular flavours are pista, khus and ofcourse kesar

Falooda is by no means a low calorie indulgence. It is sugar laden and very filling. No wonder R was replacing her meals with it.

Falooda (makes 2 servings)

2 cups chilled milk

4 teaspoons sabja seeds soaked in water for 10 minutes and drained (basil seeds)

1/2 cup falooda sev (if not use regular semia, cook in 1/2 cup water with 2 teaspoons sugar)

3 scoops butter scotch/ vanilla or pista icecream

1/4 cup rose syrup / rooh afza

Divide all the ingredient equally as you layer in the glasses first add the rose syrup next add the soaked and drained sabja seeds

Next add the cooked falooda semia and gently pour the chilled milk so that it doesn’t mix with the rose syrup

Top with icecream & drizzle some more rose syrup, serve immediately

Instead of rose syrup any other syrup like khus / pista or kesar syrup can be used.

The pairing of icecream is as follows khus/ pista syrup with pista icecream

kesar with butterscotch or vanilla icecream

rose syrup with vanilla or strawberry icecream

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