Monday, February 11, 2013

Salted Caramel Chocolate Cake

I recently developed a taste for salted caramel desserts. I had the best salted caramel ice cream and salted caramel milkshake on my trip to England late last year . I instantly fell in love with the incredible combination of sweet caramel and salt . When I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to make a birthday cake for a teenager turning 18 , I thought a salted caramel chocolate cake would be just perfect . I made the cake in 3 steps- I started with the caramel sauce 3 days prior and kept it in the fridge. I made the cake the day before (which I strongly recommend as it makes it a lot easier to spread the caramel on) and on the day of , I made the frosting and finished with the decoration.
It is extremely important to wear kitchen gloves while making the caramel sauce as it will bubble and become very foamy when the cream is added. Do not panic ! Just add the cream very slowly , a little at a time while stirring continuously.
Use Maldon , Fleur de Sel or Himalayan Pink salt only. DO NOT USE table salt as it will be too harsh and salty for this recipe.

There will be leftover caramel sauce- Refrigerate - warm to loosen a bit and use on vanilla ice cream !

It is a time consuming cake to make but oh so worth it !

2 Sticks unsalted butter softened
2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
Pinch of salt
4 eggs
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate , melted over pot of boiling water and cooled
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  • Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F
  • Butter 2 x 9 inch non stick round cake pans and line each pan with parchment paper
  • Sift flour , cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together
  • With and electric mixer on medium-high speed , cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add eggs one at a time mixing until completely incorporated before adding each additional egg
  • Mix in the chocolate and vanilla making sure to combine really well
  • Turn the mixer on low and slowly add the dry ingredients alternating with the buttermilk in 3 batches starting and ending with the flour mixture. Make sure to mix really well without over beating
  • Pour half the batter in each pan and spread it evenly
  • Bake until a toothpick comes out clean around 25-30 mins
  • Remove the pans from the racks and allow to cool for 10 mins
  • Loose edges of the cakes from the pan with a knife and then turn them onto racks
  • Remove the paper and let the cakes to cool completely

INGREDIENTS FOR THE CARAMEL SAUCE (Can be made up to 3 days ahead of time)

4 Cups of granulated sugar
1/4 cup of corn syrup
1/4 cup of water
2 cups of cream
2 sticks of cold unsalted butter cut into pieces
1 teaspoon of salt (Maldon, fleur de sel or Himalayan pink salt)

  • Combine sugar, corn syrup and water into a saucepan over high heat
  • Cook until mixture is dark amber in color (Approximately 15 mins)
  • Remove from heat and carefully pour in cream very slowly (mixture will start to foam and may splatter - Be very cautious during this step and use protective kitchen gloves - Add cream very slowly - Do not rush)
  • Continue to add cream until everything is well incorporated
  • Return to heat and cook for about 2-3 mins
  • Pour into bowl and add salt and mix well
  • Let cool slightly and add butter 1 piece at a time
  • Allow to cool completely

500 Grms good quality semi-sweet chocolate melted
2 sticks of unsalted butter room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder

  • Whisk together cocoa powder with 2 tbs of warm water and set aside
  • Beat sugar and butter with a pinch of salt until light and fluffy
  • Gradually add melted chocolate and cocoa powder and mix until well combined
  • Let stand at least 30 mins before using


Slice cakes horizontally so that you get 4 round slabs
Spread the caramel sauce on top of each layer and on top of final layer
Decorate with chocolate frosting as per your liking
Sprinkle some salt sparsely on top of cake

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Japanese Cheesecake

Ever since I saw Japanese cheesecake in the bakery section at the Chinese store, I was fascinated by the texture. I wondered how it would taste like, as from the look, it did not resemble a traditional cheesecake at all but more of a sponge cake. I finally found a recipe and tried it out. The result was light, airy and fluffy cake. Not overly sweet , best served with fruits .


250 grms cream cheese
6 eggs separated
1/2 cup cream or full cream milk
3 tbs butter
1/2 cup flour
2 tbs corn flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp  tartar powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

  • Melt butter with milk in a double boiler
  • Add cream cheese (left at room temperature )
  • Mix everything well and there should be no lumps
  • Allow to cool
  • Add egg yolks one at a time
  • Slowly add flour and corn flour and mix well
  • Add vanilla extract
  • Mixture should now be smooth . Set aside
  • Whisk egg whites on high speed
  • Add tartar powder and keep beating the eggs
  • Add sugar slowly
  • Egg whites would have doubled in volume and very thick at this stage
  • Gently fold into the cream cheese egg yolk mixture
  • Pour into mold that was lined with parchment paper
  • Bake au Bain Marie at 300F for 1 1/2 hours
Allow to cool and serve with fruits

Clam Thin crust pizza

As I was watching "You gotta eat here" show on Food TV, I was drooling just looking at the host biting into a thin crust clam pizza that looked divine. I tried making my own version from what I saw that day and the result I have to say was fantastic ! There is nothing like home made pizza dough. However, if you find it too time consuming you may use bakery bought ones. This recipe yields 2 thin crust pizza dough .

3 Cups all purpose flour plus extra for dusting
1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
1 package quick rise yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
1 tbs sugar
1 tbs salt
1 1/4 cups warm water
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs cornmeal
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs chopped garlic
1 can baby clams drained
2 tbs lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat leaves parsley
2 cups good quality Buffalo mozzarella cheese grated
1/2 cup Romano cheese grated
  • In a food processor pulse flour , yeast, salt and sugar
  • With motor running, add water and olive oil in a steady stream and then pulse until dough comes together in a rough mass
  • If the dough does not come together, add 1-2 tbs of water and pulse again
  • Let rest for 5-10 mins and pulse again for 25-30 secs
  • The dough should not be sticky , transfer to a lightly floured surface and form into a smooth ball
  • Place dough in a large oiled bowl , turn to coat with oil and cover with plastic wrap
  • Let the dough rise and double in size for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours
  • Turn onto a lightly floured work surface punch it down and divide into 2 equal pieces
  • Allow to rest for another 10 mins before proceeding with toppings
  • Drain clams and add chopped parsley leaves, lemon juice , olive oil salt and pepper set aside
  • Heat oven to 500 degrees F
  • Spread Pizza dough on tray . For an extra thin crust , prick with fork all around (skip this step if you like it thicker)
  • Brush with the olive oil
  • Sprinkle the edge with cornmeal for an extra crispy edge
  • Add chopped garlic
  • Add 1 cup of cheese Followed by the clams
  • Add the rest of the cheese including the Romano cheese on top
  • Bake until edge is golden brown and cheese is bubbly (Around 10 mins )
  • Allow to rest for at least 2 mins before slicing

Gujrati style yoghurt - Shrikhand

Yoghurt is strained overnight and once all the water has been removed , you are left with a thick , creamy product . This is whipped with sugar and from there just use your imagination to flavor this popular Indian dessert. From mango pulp to saffron , from pistachio to cardamom , you can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want. Best served cold as a counterpoint to hot and spicy dishes I have used pomegranate and home made pomegranate coulis that complemented exquisitely with the sweetness and richness of the thick yoghurt .


1 tub of good quality organic full cream yoghurt (Liberty or organic meadows are quite good)
2/3 cups of sugar
1/2 tsp of cardamom powder
Pomegranate seeds
2tbs lemon juice
1 tsp of cornstarch

  • Use a cheese cloth and hang yoghurt over bowl to drain overnight
  • Discard whey and take thick yoghurt left in cheese cloth and put in a bowl
  • Add sugar and whip thoroughly
  • Add cardamom powder and mix well
  • Take a cup of pomegranate seeds and press in a sieve to get around 1/2 cup of juice
  • Add 2 tbs of lemon juice and cook on low heat
  • Add cornstarch until just thick enough , remove from heat and sieve to remove skim on top
  • Pour whipped yoghurt in glass, add pomegranate coulis and more yoghurt on top
  • Finish with pomegranate seeds

Make a mango coulis instead of pomegranate and serve with fresh mango pieces when in season.
Use saffron instead of cardamom for a bright yellow color

Spicy Kerala Style Mussels

I love seafood ! Being an island in the midst of the Indian ocean , seafood is an integral part of the Mauritian cuisine. I was recently gifted with a Kerala cookbook and was totally amazed by the array of seafood dishes in it. I was completely inspired by the Oyster dish "Ularthiyathu" . I used the same recipe but made it with mussels instead.


400 grms mussels (Steamed in water and shells removed)
1 Big onion chopped
2-3 Green chillies chopped
1 small piece of Ginger
8 flakes of garlic
1/2  cup grated coconut
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tbs of oil
2 -3 curry leaves
1 tbs fresh lime juice
salt to taste
1 tsp mustad seeds

  • Grind coconut , ginger, garlic and green chillies and set aside
  • Heat oil in a pan
  • Add turmeric powder, curry leaves, mustard seeds and chopped onions - Sautee well
  • Add mussels , coconut paste and stir
  • Allow to cook for a few minutes
  • Add lime juice and leave to simmer on low heat for 2-3 mins until quite dry
  • Serve with bread , rice or chapatti

Sago Gula Melaka (Malay style Tapioca pearls)

This sweet treat is so simple with minimal ingredients yet so refreshingly tasty after a heavy meal. Feel free to use Brown sugar instead of the Gula Melaka (which is a palm sugar). The taste of Gula Melaka is quite unique though , if you are able to find it (available at the Chinese grocery stores)  give it a try.
1 1/2 cups of Tapioca pearls (Also known as Sago pearls)
200 grms of Palm sugar (Gula Melaka )
1 can -250 ml of coconut milk
2 tbs of water
Pinch of salt
Enough water to boil sago pearls
  • Boil water in a saucepan , add in tapioca pearls and keep stirring to make sure that they do not stick together. Cook until pearls are translucent
  • Strain and wash away excess starch in cold water
  • Put pearls in individual cups or glasses and allow to set in the fridge
  • Boil coconut milk in a saucepan, stir constantly until thick . Allow to cool and add a pinch of salt
  • In another saucepan , melt the palm sugar with the 2 tbs of water on low heat
  • Once syrupy set aside to cool
  • Remove sago from the fridge- add sugar syrup and coconut milk to each glass
  • Serve cold

Lobster Mac and Cheese

I have been craving for a good lobster mac and cheese for a while. When I went for grocery 2 weeks ago , I could not resist the fresh lobsters in the tank. They were too appealing and when the guy behind the counter told me "We can cook it for you if you'd like " ! I was sold :)  - The thought of putting live lobsters in a pot of boiling water makes me a bit squeamish . This was an offer I simply could not resist. Off I went with my 2 cooked lobsters and my White cheddar ,Swiss and Gruyere cheese.


300 g Elbow Macaroni ( I like to use Barilla brand- just a personal favorite )
2 Lobsters fully cooked and cut into big chunks (keep the shells and other parts to make a great Lobster Bisque)
1/4 cup of butter unsalted
2 Tbs of flour
2 cups of warm milk
4 cups of grated cheese combined ( I used white cheddar, Swiss Emental and Gruyere)
Few sprigs of thyme leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of nutmeg
Panko bread crumbs (optional to your liking )


Cook Macaroni according to instructions until al dente- Keep aside
Heat butter in a pan
Add flour and cook until slightly brown
Slowly add the warm milk (if cold milk is used sauce will be lumpy)
Whisk until it turns into a smooth paste (not too thick - add more milk if required)
Add nutmeg , thyme leaves, pepper
Now add the cheese and mix well until completely melted - Add salt only if required
Add the pasta and lobster and stir well to coat
Pour into individual casserole dishes (or a medium sized one)
Ready to eat as is or if you wish , sprinkle panko breadcrumbs on top and broil on high for 2-3 mins until bubbly


It is sometimes daunting to look for cheese that does not contain Rennet (animal based enzymes ). However, a lot of brands now use bacterial culture as opposed to Rennet such as Agropur