Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cherry Crumb Pie



Cherries are in abundance right now, the supermarket shelves are overflowing with perfect little cherries - beautiful, deep red and sinfully sweet. I couldn't resist picking them up, hoping to turn them into a perfect summer dessert. Late sunday afternoon, sitting with a big bowlful of cherries in front me, recipes circling in my head - I decided upon Cherry Pie, that would surely be hard to mess up !



Now, prepping cherries is fun if you have the time and patience for it. The lack of a cherry pitter made my task more time consuming than necessary, but tasty ;) nonetheless.

Wearing a T-shirt that wouldn't get ruined by the red juices, I sat down with a paring knife, and one-by-one pitted the cherries - like you would an avocado, by running the knife around the cherry, twisting the two halves in opposite directions and then removing the pit - in the end, I had a bunch of cherry halves with me. The ones that made it, without me snacking on them, went on to become yummy pie filling.



For the homemade pie-filling - I used four cups of cherry halves and half a cup of water and heated this in a saucepan and added 1/2 cup sugar(depending on how sweet the cherries are) and 2 teaspoons of Corn Flour. Stirring occassionally, I watched as the cherries started to soften and mixture bubbled and thickened and then added 1/2 tsp. of lemon zest for that something extra !



I used a store-bought pie crust - just used a fork and pressed gently against the soft pastry, and then added the pie filling. For the crumb topping, I mixed half cup flour, 1 egg, 1/4 cup nuts, 1/4 cup flaked coconut and 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter ( This is an estimate, as I just threw some stuff in that I thought would work, to make it into a sticky topping) and then topped the pie filling with this.

 

Bake the pie for around 30-35 minutes in a preheated oven at 350 F till the crumb topping has turned golden brown. My pie bubbled over the crust, but tasted sensational, much more the next day after all the flavours married.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rainbow Cake

Baking is something that I find relaxing, it is not something that you do when you're rushed, just slowing down to read the recipe, measuring the ingredients, following the steps in the recipe, requires you to unwind. I enjoy baking, when you put the lil' cake pans in the oven and set and timer, and lo and behold in a little while..beautiful ...perfectly risen cakes !!

I enrolled in the Wilton Cake Decorating Course (one thing to cross of my list of things to do!!) and am having a great time in the class. I highly recommend it.

 

For our first cake, we started with off with something relatively simple, mostly stars (tip 16). It is amazing how much skill and patience is needed to have a perfectly smooth frosted cake with no crumbs showing through, just to start with. I'll get there ...:).

 

This was a simple 8-inch two-layer white cake, that is frosted with a pale blue frosting - for the sky as a base for the rainbow. I used wilton pastel colors for my rainbow - made with stars(tip 16).

 

I definetely had fun with this first class. All the frosting is from the wilton buttercream recipe, it is incredible the amount of frosting you go through ...even for a simple cake ! The key, I think would be to prepare the frosting a week or so ahead of time, before decorating the cake, to spend one evening preparing the frosting in all the consistencies needed for the cake and freezing it. There are so many cool ideas out there, on the web and in books, cute character pans - from 'raggedy ann' to 'lil nemo' and from elaborate wedding cakes dressed up in stunning flowers and lace to adorable cupcakes.

The inspiration can be virtually anything, from the beach to the flowers in your yard, to fashion accessories. In the end, it is a sweet and delicious gesture to bake a cake for family and friends that you care for.

  

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Summer brings with it a bounty of ripe tomatoes, deep red strawberries, sweet cherries, cool watermelon and ...endless little treats. This is when the weather outside is so hot that you crave something satisfying, simple and soothing. This is a time to take advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables that the season has to offer. To have a meal that is motivated by what you have in your pantry, driven by the ingredients and not the recipe. Fresh, green, crisp bell peppers! There are probably a million things that you can do with it:

Roasted Bell Peppers - Sweet and Smoky, cut into strips tossed with a salad or pasta.
Grilled Bell Peppers - With onions, rolled into a fajita.
Chopped Peppers - In an omlette or maybe a simple curry with Paneer ?
Stuffed Peppers ??


I've had Stuffed Tomatoes before, and they are delicious and simple to make - scoop out the flesh and the seeds and get going with the filling. Bell Peppers are little more simple, just need to first chop the head out and then take a spoon or an ice cream scoop to remove the seeds and stems.

Heat water in a big pot till bubbling and blanch the bell peppers in it for maybe 5-9 minutes so that peppers are half done.



With the filling, I just followed my instinct and added ingredients that I thought would go well with the peppers. I'd recommend following a free flow and add things that you think may pair well with the peppers. I decided to go with a simple rice filling, but you could do potatoes, cheese, olives ..


Method :
Heat olive oil in a pan and add chopped garlic and onions. When onions are translucent add chopped tomatoes and stir with the gravy becomes thicker, add oregano and fresh chopped basil. Season with salt and pepper. Then add to it, the cooked rice - depending on the number of peppers.

Spoon this mixture into the blanched peppers and top with with some parmesan cheese. Arrange the peppers in a baking dish, I poured some tomato sauce into the baking dish maybe 1/4 of the way, and bake in a 350 F oven for 30-35 mins - depending on the size of your peppers, till the skin of the pepper changes color . Since the filling is already cooked, bake till you think the pepper is ready.


Serve hot with the sauce that it was cooked in. Simple. Next time I'll definetely tweak the non-recipe some more, but this time, I think it was fun to be a little creative and didn't taste too bad either !!