Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daring Bakers: Candylicious!

Candy - this months Daring Bakers challenge was to make two different candies. One of the candies must had to be a chocolate candy and the other could be anything. Candy making is one of the things I got into a long time ago - when I was in college I made my first dipped candies. I like candy making since it is kind of cooking and chemistry combined. There is lots of cooking over the stove and watching a thermometer - and it is kind of crucial that you get it pretty exact. Well, since then I have not really done much with the candy making. Not because I didn't enjoy making candy - but because I didn't really need to eat it. Well this challenge gave me a chance to get back into candy making and try some new things.

I have been really busy lately which kind of takes the creativity right out of me - so I just decided to do some of the recipes that were provided to us. I am not really a chocolate person so I decided to make two of the non-chocolate recipes provided and one chocolate candy.

The first candy I decided to make was Pâte de fruit. I do not eat a lot of candy but if I had to pick my favorite it would be those candy orange slices. Pâte de fruit is what those orange slices are trying to copy. I made an orange and a lemon version. They are made with real fruit and real zest and you can tell. The flavor is very real and fresh - not artificial like the ones you buy in the bag. They also are much softer and not as chewy as the ones from the store. They are not hard to make - but they take a lot of stirring. I didn't keep track but think I must have stirred over a hot pan for close to an hour for the two versions - but it was definitely worth it.

I didn't need to make another non-chocolate candy but the recipe for Sponge candy (aka honeycomb aka seafoam) looked kind of fun and easy too. You just throw the ingredients in a pan and wait for it to hit 285 degrees. When it hits temp you take it off the heat and add a bunch of baking soda. As soon as the baking soda is added it foams like crazy and you put it in your prepared pan. For a long time it sits there growing and falling and looking like it is breathing. My four year old loved it. The recipe said I would make a mess cutting it and I did. I have no idea how they got the nicely cut pieces shown in the example. This wasn't really my favorite candy but it wasn't bad. It tasted of baking soda to me and I wonder if the amount could be reduced. Also, this is not the candy to eat if you wear braces.

My last candy was a rolled truffle. Truffles are something that are pretty easy to make - no tempering or anything. You just warm the cream and pour it over chocolate to melt it. When it gets semi-hard you scoop it out and roll it in balls. I added a little bit of grand marnier for flavor. I then rolled some of my truffles in cocoa and some of them into chopped pistachios. Even though I say I am not a big chocolate person these were very good. Nice soft, melt in your mouth, chocolate flavor. The grand marnier added just a hint of orange.

Thanks to Lisa of Parsley, Sage, Desserts, and Line Drives and to Mandy of What the Fruitcake for this months challenge. You can find all the recipes I used in the challenge in the recipe archive at The Daring Kitchen.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Daring Cooks: Appam and Curry (Indian Dinner)

Wow - no posts since June - it has been a busy summer. I feel so guilty for missing the last few months with The Daring Kitchen and I almost missed this one too but this month was a challenge I really wanted to try. The challenge was to make Appams and a South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with them. I decided to take it a little further and do a whole Indian meal. Most Indian food that I have eaten has been at Indian restaurant buffets and I have never attempted to cook it myself so I thought this would be a fun challenge. I knew my wife might not enjoy all of this food herself so I gave her the task of finding someone who would. She thought she was going to get an Indian couple from work to come but the schedule did not work. Then she texted me from church all excited because she found out someone there had been to India and were available for a dinner - good - we have two more people willing to test out my Indian cooking.

Since I decided to do a whole meal I had a lot of planning to do. I had just been to a local Indian restaurant so I kind of had an idea of what goes into a meal but was still a little clueless. I sent off an email to an Indian buddy of mine and let him know my requirements and what my ideas were. He was a great help telling me what I was doing that didn't seem right and gave me a few other ideas for what goes together and what to have for a proper Indian dinner. He even offered me some of his Mom's recipes.

I made my first trip to an Indian grocery for this challenge. Going to foreign groceries is always something I love to do and this was no exception. I love seeing all the vegetables and spices and other ingredients that I have never seen before. I picked up some okra, curry leaves, and a few spices that I would need.

Anyway here is the dinner - I won't include any of the recipes because - well because that would be a lot of work for all this stuff - but if you are interested in anything please ask and I will get you the recipe or the link to my source. I will start with the two requirements for The Daring Kitchen challenge. You can find the recipes for the first two items here in the Daring Kitchen recipe archives.

The first item is the Appams. I have had several kinds of Indian bread but don't think I have ever had these. They are a little strange to put together - soaking and grinding raw rice, then add yeast and a very small amount of cooked rice, then 8+ hours of fermenting on the counter. The dough rises and falls all by itself overnight since it is fairly thin. Then when you are ready to cook you thin it out with some coconut milk and cook them one at a time. I figured since they looked kind of like crepes I would cook them in my crepe pan and it worked perfect. They are thin on the edges and more puffy and "bready" in the middle. They were great with the curry and tasted very mild with the texture of a bread. One of our guests just rolled up the curry like a taco - probably not very Indian but it worked.

To go with the Appams I decided to fix one of the dishes included with the challenge - the Malabar Chicken. I did tone down the heat a lot so my wife would at least try it but did leave all the other flavor in. This dish had a lot of herbs and spices that I don't normally cook with but it smelled very good to me. It had a lot of flavors I recognized from Indian food but the dish was different from any curry that I have had before - I think just because it had a lot of tomato. It also had coconut milk but it was not as predominant of a flavor as in a Thai curry.

Now that the Daring Cooks items are out of the way here is the rest of the meal I did. I started the meal with some Eggplant and Onion Pakoras. I actually just went on a food tour of Minneapolis yesterday and part of the food tour was pakoras at an Indian restaurant and they were great. I had an eggplant in the fridge from my CSA and thought it would work for pakoras - I did a quick web search and apparently eggplant pakoras are a thing so I went with it. I also did some onion and cilantro pakoras and they were both very good - I especially liked the onion ones that were kind of a fritter style. They batter is very flavorful with some spices in it and it fried up nice. I also made a Cilantro and mint Chutney - I did add a little heat to the chutney and it was very tasty on the pakoras.

Anyone that has been to an Indian restaurant probably knows this one - a Mango Lassi. Very easy to make and very refreshing on a hot day.

This is a Cucumber Raita. This a very nice summer salad - very similar to some typical American cucumber salads - but with a few extra spices in there.

This is Bhindi Masala ( I think that translates to Okra mixture). I knew okra was African and I knew it was Southern US but I didn't know it was Indian. I am not sure if I have ever had it when it wasn't deep fried but I did enjoy this preparation. It was just onions fried with the okra and a bunch on Indian spices.

For dessert I decided to go with Gajar (Carrot) Halwa. This is just shredded carrot cooked for a long time in milk - then a little bit of sugar and cardamom added. I don't think it is typical but I saw several pictures of it molded like this and I think it made it a nice looking dessert. It was definitely not a typical American dessert - not very sweet or rich but it was kind of nice for a change - mild spice and just a little sweet.

Thanks to Mary from Mary Mary Culinary for this months challenge. It was great fun cooking all this.