Sunday, September 27, 2009

Daring Bakers Challenge Sep 09 - Vol-au-Vents filled with mushrooms and cream

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

The thought that I could make this was too difficult for me to digest. But I must say it was an exhilarating experience. The puff pastry sheet that is used to make so many things is something that requires lot of time and patience. So I take this post to salute all the bakers out there who work day in day out on these pastry sheets so we can get these mouthwatering pastries. Seriously it is their labor makes this so light (not on calories :) )and airy that we hardly take a few minutes to gobble :)

Of all the things that I like made out of pastry sheet I would best relate to "Khari biscuit". This is a Indian version of puff pastry that is made using flour and margarine available widely in Maharashtra and some parts of Karnataka. It is found in most of the bakeries and is usually had with Indian Masala Chai. To enjoy it you need to actually dunk it into the hot Chai and then bite into it. It is yummy!!

When I saw the challenge I thought that I will definitely bake the pastry sheets just like that which is how they bake the Khari Biscuit. They did come out well and I must say I surprised myself since they did "puff" quite a lot.

Now after that my second attempt was to make the vol -au-vent. I must say I am more then satisfied with this third entry DB event. My hubby liked them a lot.

I made a filling of mashed potatoes and stir fried mushrooms in cream with parsley and chives, garnished with grated carrots and fried cashews.

I know what a combination! But it came out to be really yummy. In fact with the rest of the pastry sheet I made puffs as they are called in India. These are pastries filled with sweet of savory filling.

Forming and Baking the Vols-au-Vent

You will need:-

  • Well-chilled puff pastry dough

  • Egg wash (1 egg or yolk beaten with a small amount of water) I used milk instead

  • Filling of choice


Line a baking sheet with parchment and set aside.

Using a knife or metal bench scraper, divided your chilled puff pastry dough into three equal pieces.

Work with one piece of the dough, and leave the rest wrapped and chilled. (If you are looking to make more vols-au-vent than the yield stated above, you can roll and cut the remaining two pieces of dough as well…if not, then leave refrigerated for the time being or prepare it for longer-term freezer storage.)

On a lightly floured surface, roll the piece of dough into a rectangle about 1/8 to 1/4-inch (3-6 mm) thick. Transfer it to the baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10 minutes before proceeding with the cutting. (This assumes you will be using round cutters, but if you do not have them, it is possible to cut square vols-au-vents using a sharp chef’s knife.)

For smaller, hors d'oeuvre sized vols-au-vent, use a 1.5” round cutter to cut out 8-10 circles. For larger sized vols-au-vent, fit for a main course or dessert, use a 4” cutter to cut out about 4 circles.

Make clean, sharp cuts and try not to twist your cutters back and forth or drag your knife through the dough. Half of these rounds will be for the bases, and the other half will be for the sides. (Save any scrap by stacking—not wadding up—the pieces…they can be re-rolled and used if you need extra dough. If you do need to re-roll scrap to get enough disks, be sure to use any rounds cut from it for the bases, not the ring-shaped sides.)

Using a ¾-inch cutter for small vols-au-vent, or a 2- to 2.5-inch round cutter for large, cut centers from half of the rounds to make rings. These rings will become the sides of the vols-au-vent, while the solid disks will be the bottoms. You can either save the center cut-outs to bake off as little “caps” for you vols-au-vent, or put them in the scrap pile.

Dock the solid bottom rounds with a fork (prick them lightly, making sure not to go all the way through the pastry) and lightly brush them with egg wash. Place the rings directly on top of the bottom rounds and very lightly press them to adhere. Brush the top rings lightly with egg wash, trying not to drip any down the sides (which may inhibit rise). If you are using the little “caps,” dock and egg wash them as well.

Refrigerate the assembled vols-au-vent on the lined baking sheet while you pre-heat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). (You could also cover and refrigerate them for a few hours at this point.)

Once the oven is heated, remove the sheet from the refrigerator and place a silicon baking mat (preferred because of its weight) or another sheet of parchment over top of the shells. This will help them rise evenly.

Bake the shells until they have risen and begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes depending on their size. Reduce the oven temperature to 350ºF (180ºC), and remove the silicon mat or parchment sheet from the top of the vols-au-vent.

If the centers have risen up inside the vols-au-vent, you can gently press them down. Continue baking (with no sheet on top) until the layers are golden, about 15-20 minutes more. (If you are baking the center “caps” they will likely be finished well ahead of the shells, so keep an eye on them and remove them from the oven when browned.)

Remove to a rack to cool. Cool to room temperature for cold fillings or to warm for hot fillings.
Fill and serve.

Michel Richard’s Puff Pastry Dough
From: Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan

Yield: 2-1/2 pounds dough

Note: This recipe makes more than you will need for the quantity of vols-au-vent stated above. While I encourage you to make the full recipe of puff pastry, as extra dough freezes well, you can halve it successfully if you’d rather not have much leftover.

There is a wonderful on-line video from the PBS show “Baking with Julia” that accompanies the book. In it, Michel Richard and Julia Child demonstrate making puff pastry dough (although they go on to use it in other applications). They do seem to give slightly different ingredient measurements verbally than the ones in the book…I listed the recipe as it appears printed in the book.


  • 2-1/2 cups (12.2 oz/ 354 g) unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1-1/4 cups (5.0 oz/ 142 g) cake flour

  • 1 tbsp. salt (you can cut this by half for a less salty dough or for sweet preparations)

  • 1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 300 ml) ice water

  • 1 pound (16 oz/ 454 g) very cold unsalted butter

  • Plus extra flour for dusting work surface

Mixing the Dough:

Check the capacity of your food processor before you start. If it cannot hold the full quantity of ingredients, make the dough into two batches and combine them.

Put the all-purpose flour, cake flour, and salt in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse a couple of times just to mix. Add the water all at once, pulsing until the dough forms a ball on the blade. The dough will be very moist and pliable and will hold together when squeezed between your fingers. (Actually, it will feel like Play-Doh.)

Remove the dough from the machine, form it into a ball, with a small sharp knife, slash the top in a tic-tac-toe pattern.

Wrap the dough in a damp towel and refrigerate for about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the butter between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and beat it with a rolling pin until it flattens into a square that's about 1" thick. Take care that the butter remains cool and firm: if it has softened or become oily, chill it before continuing.

Incorporating the Butter:

Unwrap the dough and place it on a work surface dusted with all-purpose flour (A cool piece of marble is the ideal surface for puff pastry) with your rolling pin (preferably a French rolling pin without handles), press on the dough to flatten it and then roll it into a 10" square.

Keep the top and bottom of the dough well floured to prevent sticking and lift the dough and move it around frequently. Starting from the center of the square, roll out over each corner to create a thick center pad with "ears," or flaps.

Place the cold butter in the middle of the dough and fold the ears over the butter, stretching them as needed so that they overlap slightly and encase the butter completely. (If you have to stretch the dough, stretch it from all over; don't just pull the ends) you should now have a package that is 8" square.

To make great puff pastry, it is important to keep the dough cold at all times. There are specified times for chilling the dough, but if your room is warm, or you work slowly, or you find that for no particular reason the butter starts to ooze out of the pastry, cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it . You can stop at any point in the process and continue at your convenience or when the dough is properly chilled.

Making the Turns:

Gently but firmly press the rolling pin against the top and bottom edges of the square (this will help keep it square).

Then, keeping the work surface and the top of the dough well floured to prevent sticking, roll the dough into a rectangle that is three times as long as the square you started with, about 24" (don't worry about the width of the rectangle: if you get the 24", everything else will work itself out.)

With this first roll, it is particularly important that the butter be rolled evenly along the length and width of the rectangle; check when you start rolling that the butter is moving along well, and roll a bit harder or more evenly, if necessary, to get a smooth, even dough-butter sandwich (use your arm-strength!).

With a pastry brush, brush off the excess flour from the top of the dough, and fold the rectangle up from the bottom and down from the top in thirds, like a business letter, brushing off the excess flour. You have completed one turn.

Rotate the dough so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Repeat the rolling and folding process, rolling the dough to a length of 24" and then folding it in thirds. This is the second turn.

Chilling the Dough:

If the dough is still cool and no butter is oozing out, you can give the dough another two turns now. If the condition of the dough is iffy, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 30 minutes. Each time you refrigerate the dough, mark the number of turns you've completed by indenting the dough with your fingertips. It is best to refrigerate the dough for 30 to 60 minutes between each set of two turns.

The total number of turns needed is six. If you prefer, you can give the dough just four turns now, chill it overnight, and do the last two turns the next day. Puff pastry is extremely flexible in this regard. However, no matter how you arrange your schedule, you should plan to chill the dough for at least an hour before cutting or shaping it.

The filling:

  • 1 cup Milk

  • 4 tbsp of Cream

  • 8-10 Button Mushrooms

  • 1 tbsp dried Chives

  • 1 tbsp dried Parsley

  • 1 Mashed Potato

  • 1 tbsp of Butter

  • 4 tbsp of grated carrot

  • 1 tsp of lime juice

  • 2 tbsp of cashews lightly sauteed in butter till browned

  • 1 tbsp of cornflour

  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Garnish: Cucumber cubed, Tomatoes de-seeded and diced, Onions chopped, mint leaves


  1. Melt the butter and saute the mushrooms till done. Add the parsley and chives and fry for some more time.

  2. Now add 3/4 of the milk and let them cook for a minute or so.

  3. Add the cream and let it simmer for a while. Add the salt and pepper.

  4. Add the cornflour into 1/4 cup of cold milk and mix well.

  5. Now slowly add this milk and keep stirring.

  6. Once the mixture thickens turn off the heat.

  7. Add the mashed potato and grated carrots and lime juice.

  8. Once cooled scoop it into the baked Vol-au-vent shells and top with the cashews. Cashews give a certain crunchiness which beats the meaty taste of mushrooms.

  9. Warm it in the oven before serving with the suggested garnish. Enjoy!!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Cooking with Leftovers- Part 1 - Dal Parata - Unleavened Bread made of Lentil and Wholewheat

What do you do with the leftovers?

It is a question that every woman is constantly needs to ponder on before pushing it into the fridge saying "Oh well, Ill eat it tomorrow" and sometimes the tomorrow never comes :)

As always these leftovers then come out as a part of the weekly or fortnightly fridge cleanup and are usually thrown. Aren't you giving me that smile now.. okay..may be there are some of you who really utilize leftovers effectively. I personally try my level best but do sometimes end up the way I explained above.

Now I thought I will start a series of sort. You know what I mean where I will post some recipe that can be made from leftovers. This is the first in the series and I do promise to continue this.

Okay, now just a note before I start for all the mothers out there who constantly try to ensure that their kids have "Dal". I know it can be very difficult. So even though this post is about leftover for all those who have children complaining of "No Dal Mom" this is a great way of giving them their daily dose of proteins without them knowing :) Ready to go into the Lunch Box!

I am talking about masking cooked lentils i.e the Dal into the whole wheat rotis or paratas that you prepare. You can use any Dal that is leftover. It could be Masoor Dal or the Red Lentils, Toor Dal or Yellow Lentils or Moong Dal.

You will need:
  • Left over Dal -1 Cup
  • Whole Wheat Flour - 2 cups
  • Salt
  • Oil - 1/2 tsp
  • Water - 1/2 Cup approx (to knead the dough)


  1. Take the dal and the Flour into a wide bowl.
  2. Add Salt and slowly add water little by little kneading the dough by hand. That's how we traditionally do it here in India. You can use a Food Processor /Kitchen Aid.
  3. Knead for some time till you get soft pliable dough. Adjust the water based the dough consistency. It needs to soft to touch. At the same the dough should not stick to your hand.
  4. At this point you can either add a few drops of oil and knead some more till you get a soft dough.
  5. Once done let it rest for some time.
  6. Take a small portion of the dough and roll it into a ball.
  7. Flatten it on some flour and then using a rolling pin roll into a neat round.
  8. Heat the Griddle or Tawa and once it is hot put the roti on the tawa and fry on both the side using oil of your choice.


  1. You can fill this roti with mashed potatoes seasoned with some salt and make it into a stuffed parata as you see in the picture above. Enjoy!!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Almond Date Cake (Eggless)

Finally it has arrived!! Egg less baking in my blog. For all my dear vegetarians who have been patiently waiting to this day thank you so so much.

I will be posting cooking tips to all my previous recipes which had eggs as to how they can be prepared without eggs. As you know this blog consists of recipes that are tried and tested. A dear friend A has taken the pains to convert many of my recipes into egg less versions and she claims that they taste as good as the ones with egg.

The first in this list is the now famous Moist orange cake that can be now prepared without egg. You will find the updated post here!

Okay now back to the main post. Hmm..Where should I start. I remember this one colleague of mine S who always used to ask for egg less cakes whenever I used to take my baked goodies to the office. She was very patient since it has been close to a year and I never ever tried egg less baking even once.

The main reason that I used to stay away from egg less cake it in order to substitute the egg (which to a certain extent I do consider extremely healthy no offence) the egg less version used loads of butter, cream etc. etc.

My search for a healthier egg less versions has taken me to a number of sites, places, people but none of the recipe got me so intrigued that I immediately wanted to bake it. Till I chanced upon this amazing post by Shilpa called Date Cake @ Aayis Recipes

I have changed the ingredients to suit my taste. So here goes the recipe:

You will need:
  • 20 Dates (I used Lion Dates)
  • 1 Cup Wholewheat Atta (I used Ashirwad)
  • 1/2 Sugar
  • 3/4 Cup Milk
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 tbsp of vinegar
  • 1 fistful almonds (powdered roughly)


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 deg.
  2. The dates should be soft enough to be ground into a fine paste. If not you may need to soak it overnight. I used the "Lion" brand of dates that are extremely soft and de-seeding them took 5 minutes hardly.
  3. Grind the dates, milk and sugar into a fine paste. Add the oil, vinegar and set aside.
  4. Sift the Wheat flour along with the Baking Soda and salt. Twice is very good if possible.
  5. Now just add this into the date paste and mix with a spatula carefully little by little.
  6. Add the almonds and mix into the batter carefully.
  7. Once well mixed pour it into an oiled baking tin and bake for about 25-30 minutes. The time may vary depending upon your oven.
  8. Check if your cake is done by inserting a toothpick in the center of the cake.
  9. Enjoy your egg less cake with your favorite ice cream.

P.S: I found that this cake is a little fudgy and dense may be because of non-existence of egg, may be due to the dates. Nevertheless it was yummy!!Eggitarians try baking it with an egg and omit the vinegar, use 1/2 tsp of Baking Soda.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Punjabi Dal Makhani - Maa Di Dal - Black Lentils Cooked in Creamy Gravy

It was a lazy afternoon and I was browsing for some good shows to watch. That is when I happened to watch this Madhur Jaffery’s cookery show where she was visiting Amritsar. I was totally glued and for the next hour or so I thoroughly enjoyed the way she enthralled the viewers by showing the real Punjabi cuisine visiting houses, colleges, gurdwaras and even a river bank to cook up some scrumptious dishes..

One such dish caught my attention for the simplicity in which she portrayed it. That was the Maa di Dal or Dal Makhani that was served as a part of the Langar at the Gurudwaras.

Langar is the term used in the Sikh religion for the free, vegetarian-only food served in a Gurudwara. Langar is a community meal that is open to all irrespective of caste or creed.

This simple meal is prepared by hundreds of volunteers, consists of mounds of Roti or unleavened Bread and Dal or creamy legume based side dish to go with the Bread.

It is a simple recipe but is so delicious to make. For once you may need to forego the calorie calculator and enjoy this yummy dish with bread of your choice.

You will need:

  • Black Lentils or Ural Dal (whole) - 1 Cup

  • Rajma or Red Kidney Beans-1/2 Cup

  • Tomatoes -3 Medium, finely chopped

  • Garam Masala- 1 tsp

  • Kashmiri Chilli Powder - 1 tsp

  • Garlic Minced - 2 tsp

  • Ginger Minced - 2 tsp

  • Onion finely chopped -1 Medium

  • Salt to taste

  • Ghee - 1 tbsp

  • Fresh Cream -1 tbsp

  • A dollop of Butter


  1. Wash the Dal and Rajma and soak it overnight.

  2. The next morning change the water, add some salt and pressure cook the Dal and Rajma.

  3. Once the dal gets cooked well, add the tomatoes, Garlic, Ginger, butter and 1/2 tsp of the chilli powder and let it cook for some time till the tomoatoes are well cooked.

  4. At this point in time add the fresh cream, salt and the Garam Masala and let it simmer for a while.

  5. Now take the Ghee in a small pan for tempering. Once it is hot enough add the chopped onions and fry till the onions are brown. Add the rest of the chilli powder (1/2 tsp) and then add this tempering into the simmering dal.

  6. Close the lid and switch off the flame. At this point the dal would have attained the creamy thickeness desired. If it too thick you may add a little water though.

  7. Serve the dal with Roti or Nan. Try it when you have guests to impress ;-) Enjoy!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Chana Masala -Garbanzo Beans-Chick Peas-Indian Style

Susan, a lovely blogger and splendid photographer behind the delightful blog called The Well Seasoned Cook and Sia from the amazing blog called Monsoon Spice have invited bloggers to participate in this event called "My Legume Love Affair-Fifteenth Helping"

I choose the so-so famous "Chana Masala". It is one of those dish that you will find in all the North Indian restaurant menus as well as in most of the North Indian weddings, parties and gathering.

Even though it is a famous dish there is so much mystery surrounding what goes into this dish.
That is because there are so many different ways of making this dish given the amount of diversities that we have within North Indian cuisine.

I have simplified this dish to a great possible extent and I am sure as you read this post you may be tempted to try it. The twist here is I have added some boiled chickpeas to the ground masalas to give the thickness or creaminess that is so important to this gravy at the same time ensuring that the calorie factor is very low unlike using dry fruits or heavy cream to get the same creaminess.

This dish is:

  • Easy to make
  • Quick to make
  • Uses less ingredients
  • Healthier

    Now to speak a little more on the legume in the limelight the Kabuli Chana or the Chick Peas or Garbanzo Beans as it is called world over is used to make so many amazing dishes world wide. It is definitely the most versatile in the legume family. Apart from the Chana Masala that is made in India the one dish made out with this that I love is the Hummus that is made in the Middle eastern Cuisine.
  • Now moving back to our "Chana Masala" the Ingredients are very simple:

  • Chick Peas – 1 ½ cup (soaked overnight)
  • Garlic Pods – 4-6
  • Ginger – 2” piece
  • Tomato Puree - 3 Tbsp (Can be replaced by 1 Medium sized Tomato)
  • Onion – 2 Medium sized
  • Turmeric Powder or Haldi – 1 tsp
  • Coriander Powder or Dhania -2 tsp
  • Kashmiri Chili Powder or Cayenne Pepper – 1 tsp
  • Salt - to taste
  • Garam Masala – 1 tsp
  • Oil – 2 tbsp
  • Coriander or Cilantro Leaves for Garnish

    The Method:
    1. Add salt to the soaked Chick Peas and cook them till they done.
    2. Take half cup of this cooked chick peas and reserve the rest of the Chick peas along with the water aside for later use.
    3. Now chop the onions roughly into four pieces.
    4. Add the half cup of cooked chick peas, onion, garlic, ginger and grind into a fine paste.
    5. Take the oil in a wok and when it is hot enough add this paste.
    6. Fry this paste till the paste turns into a light brown color. This may take 15-20 minutes and does require constant monitoring.
    7. Now add the Turmeric Powder, Coriander Powder, Salt, Chili Powder and fry for some more time.
    8. When the masalas are well incorporated in the mixture add the Tomato puree and fry for a couple of more minutes.
    9. At this point in time you will notice that the masala will give out oil and this is a good indication that it is done.
    10. Add the cooked chick peas along with the water.
    11. Stir and simmer this for some time till done. It may take 5-10 minutes. You may add more water if needed depending upon the consistency that you need.
    12. Garnish with Coriander leaves.
    13. Enjoy with Nan, Roti, Bread or Rice!!

    Tuesday, September 1, 2009

    Fish Fry - Express Indian - Party Dish

    This is my entry to another blog event that is taking place at Mad Tea Party called "Express Indian".

    I know what you may be thinking. That I am enrolling into so many events around the food blogosphere :) Why not? It is amazing.. This new hobby of mine..Blogging and sending entries to Blog events.

    Okay so much for the introduction. Now the rules of this event are that we need to come up with a party dish which needs not more than 6 ingredients and takes less then 30 minutes to make barring the time taken to chop and marinate know what I mean.

    Now I have chosen a good old dish that we normally make as a starter most of the times. This is so easy to make and so so delicious.. And yes! it does fall within the event rules.

    It is the good old fish fry. I use Seer Fish, Mackerel for making this. This is the way my mom and my moms mom used to prepare this dish.

    And yes this has been a hit at all the parties that we made this. That is with the non-vegetarians!!


    • Fish -4 Pieces
    • Red Chilli Powder - 2 tsp
    • Salt - To taste
    • Hing or Aesofotida - A pinch for every piece of fish
    • Lemon Juice (1-2 tsp)
    • Oil (for shallow fry)

    Marination Time: 30 minutes

    Preparation Time: 20 minutes


    1. Clean the fish and pat it dry using a kitchen towel or napkin. Note that the fish should be realtively dry after this and should not be leaving any water. You may need to thaw the fish well in advance if using frozen fish.
    2. Now mix the Red Chilli Powder, Salt and Aesofotida in a dry bowl.
    3. Now sprinkle the prepared mixture onto the fish and pat gently. Turn the fish onto the other side and sprinkle on the other side.
    4. Let it marinate for a minimum of 15 minutes.
    5. Now take some oil in a flat bottom pan.
    6. When the oil is just at the right temperature shallow fry the fish.
    7. Bring it a simmer and let it fry in low heat turning when necessary.
    8. When completely done remove from the pan and transfer it onto a plate.
    9. Garnish with a few drops of lemon juice and your fish is ready to be served at your party. Enjoy!


    1. For all those who make this, try having this with Rice and Plain Dal. It is an amazing combination.

    2. For all the vegetarians who have managed to read so far (I know I have many of them out there) thanks for bearing with me on this one :). A tip is you can make the same thing with any vegetables such as Brinjal, Potato, Raw Jack Fruit etc. Only thing is you may need to add a little bit of Rice flour and water to coat the batter onto the vegetable.