Friday, 30 November 2012

White Chocolate and Dried Cranberries Cookies

Food blogs are more than a collection of recipes. In their unique, individual style, each blogger allows us a little peek into their lives, homes and thoughts. They share with us the excitement of the special days and the mundaneness of every day. They tell us about the joy of their happy times and their anguish during the hard times. They take us along with them on their travels, from a journey back to their roots to some of the most beautiful places in the world. They reveal what is occupying their thoughts from the philosophical and sublime to the humdrum and banal. As a reader, you smile, discover, empathise, identify and move on.
And then you come across someone whose story stays with you. Their life is about channelling their toughest adversity for a greater cause. Of a personal loss that has inspired a lifelong mission. Today's post is about one such couple.

Sometime last year, Dorie Greenspan wrote about the launch of a book on bake-sale recipes by Gretchen Witt. It led me to their website and to the inspirational work they do. In 2007, Gretchen and Larry Witt's two-year old son, Liam was diagnosed with Stage-4 Cancer. As they grappled with their son's illness, they discovered that one of the main reasons why children with cancer do not survive is because of lack of funding for research into effective therapies for them. So, during the holiday season in 2007, Gretchen along with 250 volunteers organised a larger-than-life bake sale with the goal of baking 96,000 cookies. That event raised US$ 400,000 for paediatric cancer research.
Inspired by the success of that bake sale, the Witts founded 'Cookies for Kids' Cancer' in 2008. Sadly, Liam lost his battle to cancer in 2011. However, his parents remain committed to continue their work, to raise funds for research and support through bake sales. Drop by the website to learn more about them and their  work. It is also full of information on how to organise a bake sale.

While browsing through their website, I came upon the recipe section that has a little collection of cookie recipes that one could use for a bake sale. That was when I decided I would try one of their recipes as a way to introduce you to the Witts and their work.
I zeroed in on the white chocolate and dried cranberries cookies. For the past month, this 'trendy' combination of white chocolate and cranberries has caught my attention from almost every second blog I've visited.

The recipe is as straightforward as any cookie recipe. Being a bake sale recipe ensures that it is easy to follow and the results will be a crowd-pleaser. The tart, dried cranberries provide a beautiful counter-balance to the sweetness of the white chocolate, something my palate really appreciated.
What I enjoyed most about these buttery, slightly crumbly cookies is the abundance of the white chocolate and cranberries in each cookie. This is not one of those cookies where you have to go searching for the chocolate chips or the cranberries. Much to your delight, you will encounter them generously with each bite. If anything, I should have made them smaller. Mine turned out slightly on the jumbo side. Not that anyone complained!!

These cookies are a welcome change to the regular chocolate-chip cookies and warrant that you give them a shot. But more than that, drop by the website of 'Cookies for Kids' Cancer' and be inspired. As for me, a bake sale just got on my list of things 'to do'!!  

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Baked Methi Puris (Baked Whole Wheat Mini Flatbreads)

This week, Indians will celebrate Diwali, our biggest festival of the year.  It is a special day devoted to the worship of Goddess Lakshmi - the Goddess of Wealth. And for all those who think of wealth only in terms of 'benjamins', this festival celebrates the Goddess as a provider of wealth in many forms : Knowledge, intelligence, strength, valor, beauty, victory, fame, ambition, morality, wealth, food, bliss, happiness, health and progeny.

Diwali is a time for tradition and celebration, a time for prayer and hope, a time to go back home, a time for family and friends, a time for lamps and fireworks and of course, a time for good food!! And Indians love their food. Food is about sharing, love, abundance, tradition and definitely not for the weight-watchers. And for all the sweet that is made for such times, there is the savoury too. Because, thats what Indian food is all about.. balance!!

And yet amidst all the bonhomie and madness, balance is the last thing on your mind. And everyone knows how tough it is to shed holiday weight gain. So, lately a number of Indians have tried to make healthier versions of their favourite sweets and snacks without compromising on taste.
The oven does not find a place in traditional, Indian cuisine. Yet increasingly, as a lot of us have become more health-conscious, we use the oven as a way to achieve the same results with a lot less oil. So, today I attempted to make a baked version of these puris, a popular savoury snack, that would otherwise be deep-fried.

The recipe is courtesy, one of India's best-selling, most popular cookbook authors, Tarla Dalal. Before the Internet and the food blogs, her books, largely focussed on Indian cuisine and catered to India's vast vegetarian population. And at a time when the world was not such a small place as it is now, she introduced Indians to global cuisine, even if it was a vegetarian, Indianised version!!

These puris are made from whole wheat and flavoured with a few powdered spices and methi (fenugreek) leaves. And the best part, there is only a teaspoon of oil. To serve, I paired it with some coriander chutney.
The results were as I hoped they would be. The puris were crispy, spicy and just the thing needed to counter the avalanche of sweets during this time. And no, you do not miss that they are not deep-fried. And it hardly takes any time to make them, making them a perfect tea-time snack, all-year round.

Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Diwali. May this festival of lights brighten up every part of your life with joy and happiness!!!

** Over the next two weeks, I will have sporadic Internet access and will respond to your mails with a lag or when I get back home!!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Buttermilk Crumb Muffins with Rum-Soaked Raisins : 'TWD : Baking with Julia'

Is anybody else wondering, where did 2012 go?!!? How have we already reached November, when I can clearly remember reading those cheesy newspaper horoscopes at the beginning of the year?? As a close friend wrote on Facebook the other day, "Even when it feels like nothing is happening . . . something is happening."
Anyhow, getting back to the post of the day. After a month of dealing with yeast, the 'TWD: Baking with Julia' group decided to go for something simple and easy. The choice for this fortnight is Buttermilk Crumb Muffins.

I really enjoy baking muffins. I see them as one of the easiest things to bake and with zillions of muffin recipes on the Web, there's a muffin to suit every occassion and every mood. So, I was intrigued to find out if the book could come up with something interesting, in terms of flavour, texture or technique. Unfortunately not!!

Reading the recipe, I felt a bit underwhelmed. It didn't seem to have anything to excite me enough to want to give it a shot. Don't get me wrong, you know me enough to know how much I enjoy a fuss-free recipe but this recipe just seemed a bit old school. I think it was the use of vegetable shortening that first got me all sceptical.

And as I said earlier, at a time when muffin recipes have gotten so interesting with the addition of fruits, spices, vegetables, dried fruits, oil and now gluten-free, these muffins just seemed to lack the necessary pizzazz. But considering how wrong I can be, more often than not, I thought I reserve judgement until I gave the recipe a shot.

Substituted the vegetable shortening with butter and to jazz up these muffins, I added a few tablespoons of rum-soaked raisins. The muffins turned out as the book said they would, "sweet, tender muffins with a light, open crumb", with a very subtle hit of the cinnamon and nutmeg. There is the addition of a crumb on top of each muffin, but am not sure if mine turned out looking as it should have. I would have preferred a more interesting streusel topping, if any!!

These are good, fuss-free, no-frills muffins, probably best made and consumed for breakfast. But my initial thought about them proved right. They just didn't excite me enough to put them in my folder of "keeper" recipes!! I like my muffins to have more depth of flavour. In this case, even the rum-soaked raisins didn't help!!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...