Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Art of Chantilly Cream

Whipped cream also known as Chantilly cream or crème chantilly, is one of those discoveries whose origins have been lost in obscurity. From being attributed to accidental discovery in the ancient times, to whipping instead of churning the cream for butter or the common folk tale of a fast horse ride with a half filled container of cream, whipped cream has become an answer to transform the boring mundane to fresh, new and exciting view.

Essentially whipped cream is made by whipping the cream by a whisk or mixer until it is light and fluffy. It is often sweetened and flavored with vanilla, coffee, chocolate, orange to mention a few. The colder the equipment, ingredients and the cream, the easier to whip and better the results. Cream must be below 50 degrees to whip, for at 50 degrees or above it gets churned into butter. From whipping siphons to food processors and electric mixers, the hand whipped cream has progressed with time and technology.

Popularized from the 16th century onward, whipped cream became aromatized and sweetened. Then it was added to various desserts from pyramidal shapes with coffee, liqueurs, chocolate, fruits and so on, to make either as a mixture or poured on top known as crème en mousse (‘cream in a foam’), crème fouettée, crème mousseuse and fromage à la Chantilly. Modern mousses including “mousse au chocolat” have continued this tradition. As written, “Mousses are made with sweet cream, not very thick; one whips it, which makes it foam, and it is this foam that one uses: one may give it whatever flavor one wants, with aromatics, flours, fruits, wines, or liqueurs.” M. Emy, 1768

Continuing through the years, whipped cream still remains a popular topping from fruit to desserts of pie, ice cream, cake, puddings, waffles and even to beverages ranging from coffee to milk or plain hot chocolate. These days imitations of whipped cream, for those with milk allergies or vegan diets, extended shelf life and convenience have been made available as whipped topping or squirty cream. Although the original whipped cream is the best, whichever way it may be made, whipped cream makes a good treat for the eyes as well as the palate. So in honour of National Whipped Cream Day (January 5th), I’m planning to shut down the inner calorie counter, to have whipped cream on any topping like, cake, pie or even coffee for a delicious weekend splurge.

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Posted in Daily, Food, Random Thoughts

Cover with Chocolate

The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate. – Sandra Boynton

On my evening shopping spree, as I running through the aisles, the poster announcing a discount on the chocolate syrup on the event of Chocolate Covered Anything Day (December 16th) caught my eye. With a toddler in tow and it being the Christmas season, I couldn’t resist the offer. Usually when I use chocolate in cooking, I lavishly blend it with the desserts and shakes. For simply dipping food in chocolate and just having a bite, leaves the taste buds still craving. Yet for the fun of covering chocolate over variety of foods, I have planned on a chocolate dipped fruit salad, chocolate rice pudding as well as chocolate covered banana fritters (to be on the safe side). Even though the chances are high that no one can resist chocolate, simply rice with choclate is still a weird combination although wheat (roti) and chocolate spread works well. But there is no harm in a little bit of experimentation. With all the fun, personally I feel that the celebration of “Chocolate Covered Anything Day” is simply another reason to justify the need to indulge in chocolate, without triggering the guilty feel.

Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a tree, that makes it a plant. Chocolate is salad. – Unknown

Posted in Daily, Food, Photography Art

Waffles off the Griddle

My first exposure to waffles came when I was invited over to my friends’ place for a weekend during my sophomore years. As we ate through buttery waffles with sliced bananas, honey and chocolate syrup that morning, it was like an answer for sugar cravings in the morning. Ever since then, I try not to pass on an opportunity to indulge in this decadent breakfast treat.

Ideally waffles are made from leavened batter or dough cooked between two plates that are patterned to give a characteristic size, shape, and surface impression. Something similar to pancakes, though distinct in its’ style. And over the years from its’ initial medieval origins, there are over a dozen different varieties of waffles around the world, with different batters and toppings. They range from being big or small, crispy or chewy, sugared or spiced to becoming side dishes like as ice-cream cones or simply as waffle burritos.

 

Contrary to popular belief, waffles aren’t restricted to being served for breakfast. It can grace the table for lunch or dinner, depending on the mood of the day. Besides the savoury combination of chicken and waffles, other combinations like chili and waffles? Use your favorite cornbread mix and cook the batter in your waffle iron, then top with chili, sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped onions or can be had with eggs and veggies, or we can have a bit of both with bacon and maple syrup. The great thing about waffles is that they can be tailored to personal choices and make great desserts too. With the availability of the waffle iron, the ease of making waffles gives flight to fanciful combinations. Yet there are two rules to live by, warm the milk for the waffles and never stack the waffles while making else we’ll lose out on the crispiness.

The incredible simplicity of making waffles has resulted in it being blended with the local cuisine for instance waffles on stick with kulfi or as savoury waffle dosa. Although in the regular Indian households waffles have are still on the once-in-a-while menu list, trends are changing with more interesting recipes being experimented on. Additionally with waffle mix available and as waffles have excellent freeze options, they have become popular in the rush hour especially in the fast paced mornings. To quote Lauren Myracle, “You should eat a waffle! You can’t be sad if you eat a waffle!”

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Evolution of Pastry

“All food starting with p is comfort food: pasta, potato chips, pretzels, peanut butter, pastrami, Pizza, pastry.” Sara Paretsky

One of the most difficult comfort foods to master in the kitchen is the pastry. Unlike regular cuisine, all the measures have to be in exact precision, proportion as well as timing. Too much and too little handling damages it. Despite all this, mastering few types of pastry gives every “home kitchen cook” a profound sense of accomplishment as well as delightful treats on holidays for the entire family.

Pastry is different from cooking because you have to consider the chemistry, beauty and flavor. It’s not just sugar and eggs thrown together. I tell my pastry chefs to be in tune for all of this. You have to be challenged by using secret or unusual ingredients. Ron Ben-Israel

A dough of flour, water and shortening (solid fats, including butter) that may be savoury or sweetened is what encompasses pastry. From sweet to savoury, many kinds of baked products are made of ingredients such as flour, sugar, milk, butter, shortening, baking powder and eggs, although the sweeter version are often known as baker’s confectionery. Pies, tarts, quiches and pasties are the common pastry dishes with minor variations that come under their labeling. Today with ready-made pastry dough available, homemade pastry as become a little easy especially when schedules gets a bit hectic.

To make a full-blooded puff pastry, you need time, you need patience, and you need precision. It’s all about the lamination: it’s all about building up the layers of butter, dough, butter, dough; as the butter melts, it creates steam, and that brings up the layers of the two doughs apart from each other, and that’s what gives it the rise. Paul Hollywood

From shortcrust pastry to puff pastries, the evolution of various varieties has been synchronous with time, tradition, locale flavours and culture. Like many of the desserts, the tradition of pastry making started off as early as the era of Egyptians, Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans. Although the initial pastry covers over dishes were not meant to be eaten but used for baking to keep the juices in. The medieval cuisine of Europe had a breakthrough with pastry chefs using shortening and butter to make stiff pastries as well as newer techniques like the raised hot water crust initiated in the 14th century. Unlike the earlier processes which had used oil, causing the pastry to lose its stiffness. Towards middle of 16th century pastry recipes have been written, adopted and altered to the local flavour and availability.

I was drawn to bakery and pastry. It’s the same discipline you employ in dance – you take the instruction, and you keep on practicing, seeking perfection. You never achieve it, but you strive. Ron Ben-Israel

Although the pastry making traditions were different in the East and the West with different types of flour even rice flour going into the mix for the former. With the advent of travel and international cultural exchange, in the 19th century the trends of pastry making in Asia began to include a bit from the West. Once considered as a mere cover for dishes to be thrown away; today with a wide varied range pastry has become portable from creative miniature arts to eye-catching centerpieces as well as a culinary sheet for rich creative toppings and fillings of colourful, edible and delectable delights adding a bit of sparkle to make fusion varieties along with the classic recipes.

“The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry.” Marie-Antoine Careme

With a wide variety of cultural diversity and advancement of technology, Indian kitchens have been experimenting with sweet pies, tarts, Bougatsa of Greece, Danish pastry, Baklava, Apple strudel among the gulab jamuns, jalebis and Chatti pathiris that we have had since our childhood. Personally for me, I think tarts or sweet pies especially apple pies are way easier even with lack of oven, as a pressure cooker or crock pot on stove-tops can suffice. Although pastry making can lead to a kitchen disaster if not done with care, the satisfied feeling makes the experimentation worth the effort.

“A pastry usually tastes better if it looks nice. A cream pastry, now that looks nice – in fact, there is nothing I mind as long as it looks nice.” Arne Jacobsen

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Cozy with Comfort Foods

“Some foods are so comforting, so nourishing of body and soul, that to eat them is to be home again after a long journey. To eat such a meal is to remember that, though the world is full of knives and storms, the body is built for kindness. The angels, who know no hunger, have never been as satisfied.” Eli Brown in Cinnamon and Gunpowder

After a tiring week or even on long weary days, there’s nothing more satisfying that indulging  in something that calms the nerves, bringing memories of the best days of our life, as children or even as adults. No matter how “grown up”we may claim to be, everyone has their own brand of comfort or go-to food. Ranging from fried chicken to rice, french fries, bread pudding or caramel custard to scrambled eggs on toast, fish and chips or fried pakoras with ketchup to nutella on pancakes to simply ice cream; sweet, spicy or savoury the list is endless and varied. Yet there’s nothing more welcoming that digging into food that reminds us of good times, home or our mother’s kitchen, sunny skies and fun moments.

Food is a lot of people’s therapy – when we say comfort food, we really mean that. It’s releasing dopamine and serotonin in your brain that makes you feel good. Brett Hoebel

While the usual taste of comfort might trend towards the homemade cuisine, each one of us have our own eclectic tastes. Contrary to popular belief, not all women love only chocolate and ice-cream while all men indulge in steaks, casseroles and soups. Each to their own is what I believe in. As long as that food provides a nostalgic or sentimental value, its’ worth having it in both the happy as well as the sad phase.

You can’t go wrong with relatively simple comfort food. It’s also about ease. Some cook to impress. I cook for people to enjoy the food. Al Roker

Although the downside of the comfort food is its high calories, it is worth the carbohydrate load as long as it is once in a while. That is one of the reasons why a long list of comfort foods is particularly satisfying. Whether the preparation is simple or complicated, as long as the feeling of nostalgia is attached to it; it fits the criteria depending on the mood at that moment. The blissful feeling after indulging the cravings can be better experienced than said.

Sometimes a little comfort food can go a long way. – Benjamin Bratt

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Treats like Cupcakes

“The little cakes were iced in white, with golden yellow icing roses on top, and instead of ice cream there was sherbet that was a rainbow of colors in each dish. Jane Louise Curry”

Uniquely suited for the modern food culture, cupcakes are known for its portion controlled size, easy baking, inexpensive, delightful as well as edible art which allows us to splurge on the calories without being guilty. With origins traced to early 19th century, the original cupcakes or fairy-cakes were simple cakes about the size of teacups though the fairy-cakes were made slightly bigger. Although the classic vanilla, chocolate flavoured or chocolate topped icing are standard, flavours as well as the topping designs have become more elaborate, decadent and even weird at times. that followed the basic rule of numbers with measurements as cups.

“In my mind, there was nothing better than a cupcake with a funny little twist. I liked bold pairings of fresh ingredients slathered high with decadent, old-fashioned waves of icing- organic pear and chai tea cake topped with vanilla-ginger buttercream was one of my current favorites. But Lolly St. Clair had more classic taste, and so I’d made an array of delicately flavored Meyer lemon, vanilla, and mocha cupcakes for the benefit.” ? Meg Donohue, How to Eat a Cupcake

There is cup cake and then there are cupcakes. No, both aren’t exactly the same. The “cup cake” refers to a cake whose ingredients were measured by volume (using a standard-sized cup) instead of being weighed. The recipes where the ingredients were measured using a standard-sized cup can also be baked in cups; but they were more commonly baked in tins as layers or loaves. Later as the use of volume measurements was firmly established in the home kitchens, these recipes became known as 1234 cakes or quarter cakes. They mainly have four ingredients: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs; making them less rich and less expensive than pound cake.

“When you look at a cupcake, you’ve got to smile.” -Anne Byrn

The craze for cupcakes had picked up with the varying varieties available for many occasions besides having them at any time of the day as well as easily portable (remember rushing for the train with cupcake and coffee in hand). A quick office meeting or a tête-à-tête with friends; cupcakes and coffee go well with each having the freedom of their own topping. Elaborate cupcakes have graced receptions, wedding banquets as well as minor celebration parties. For weight watchers and chronic dieters, cupcakes are the answer to prayers for resolving the sugar cravings. Any kids parties, quick desserts or fast baking, cupcakes are life savers and yes, they can be made in pressure cookers too. Not to forget the designs and colours of cupcake toppings an icing, which have launched their own line of food photography art.

Cupcakes are like having life in delicious bite sizes. To quote Laurel Nakadate, “A cupcake is like a great pop song. The whole world in less than three minutes. And it’s impossible to have a bad cupcake. In New York you walk everywhere. So I’m always looking, always on the eternal search for the perfect cupcake. I take them very seriously. It’s like hunting and gathering for me.” As the best things in life come in small packages, cupcakes join my list of sweet delights. This makes promoting the Small Business Saturday with cupcakes worth the time and effort.

“Coffee makes it possible to get out of bed. Cupcakes make it worthwhile.” ~ Unknown Author

Posted in Daily, Food, Quotes

Art of Theobroma cacao

Theobroma cacao in Latin translates as “food of gods”. From its’ leaves to seeds, especially the latter when fermented, dried, crushed, ground and roasted become the bitter form of “chocolate”. The word “chocolate” comes from the Classical Nahuatl word “chocolatl” or “xocolatl” which entered the English language from Spanish. Although this fact is not fully approved as debates are still going on whether the original word was “chokolatl” or “chicolatl”.

Native to Meso-American areas, where the pre-Columbian civilizations flourished before the Spanish colonization, the history of chocolate originated as a beverage mostly bitter, mixed with spices or corn puree and sometimes fermented as an alcoholic beverage. Since then it has been in popular use especially among the upper classes, as determined by the archaeological evidence. Although it was used in official ceremonies and religious rituals, at feasts and festivals, as funerary offerings or as tribute; it was valued for its’ medicinal properties as well. Later on Cacao beans were used as currency even as taxes.

Till the 16th century, cacao was unknown to the Europeans. With the Spanish venturing into the Meso-American areas, cacao was introduced into Spain but gained popularity when the Spanish friars introduced it to the Spanish court. As the plantations slowly spread into the English, Dutch and French colonies, the market and craze for chocolate was gaining ground. Alkaline salts were introduced to chocolate by a Dutch chemist to reduce the bitterness. With the invention of the chocolate press, adding milk to chocolate and evolution of the cacao butter lead to the modern era of chocolate. From then on with artisanal chocolate lines and independent chocolatiers, chocolate has become a feast for the palate as well as the eyes.

“Chocolate knows no boundaries; speaks all languages; comes in all sizes; is woven through many cultures and disciplines… it impacts mood, health, and economics, and it is a part of our lives from early childhood through elderly years.” Herman A. Berliner

Chocolate is one of the rare foods which has a variety of days designated to celebrate it, both nationally, internationally and even locally. Over the years, there are very few food fads which has garnered a lot of attention and interest even in the entertainment, fashion as well as the art world. Why so much fuss about chocolate ?

“Chocolate is the first luxury. It has so many things wrapped in it: deliciousness in the moment, childhood memories, and that grin-inducing feeling of getting a reward for being good.” Mariska Hargitay

Besides forming an essential part of many childhoods, it has become a life saver in most kitchens and restaurants. From the liquid to the solid forms, chocolate has been a favourite for many events, even some board meetings where chocolate is at hand. To quote Johnny Iuzzini, “Chocolate is one of the backbones of the pastry kitchen. It is one of the most important ingredients in our pantry. It is very versatile, it is complex, and it is extremely temperamental.”

With the rising benefits of the cacao bean highlighted especially as dark chocolate, it has made a comeback as a healthy snack. Being a rich source of polyphenols, flavinoids as well as nitric oxide, chocolate has a role in the cardiovascular health. Besides there’s nothing as mood lifting as chocolate when we get stuck in any fiasco.

If any man has drunk a little too deeply from the cup of physical pleasure; if he has spent too much time at his desk that should have been spent asleep; if his fine spirits have become temporarily dulled; if he finds the air too damp, the minutes too slow, and the atmosphere too heavy to withstand; if he is obsessed by a fixed idea which bars him from any freedom of thought: if he is any of these poor creatures, we say, let him be given a good pint of amber-flavored chocolate… and marvels will be performed. – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin 

Yet like all good things, chocolate in moderation will go a long way in helping us enjoy this treat for a lifetime. If we indulge in too much of it, we may have a setback later. The fun of chocolate is to savour it in the moment, little at a time to make it last longer. As Forrest Gump says,” Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

With the National Chocolate day in two days time, chocolate deserves a little extra attention for the menu. For in life even though,“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt. Charles M. Schulz”