Baking | Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies … it’s Pi{e} Day after all #wholegrain #together #healthy #pie

“The people who influence you are the people who believe in you.”
Henry Drummond

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand PiesWholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies … pies for a day like today that honours the humble pie. Handiwork of a genius foodie  who equated Pi Day to Pie day ….and the rest as they say is history. In taste terms these turned out to be quite delicious. I think they are a fab fit for Pie day which incidentally falls today on the 14th of March. {Read 3.14}

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies There was a time a couple of years ago when I never missed doing a pie for Pie Day. The whole concept had me enchanted. With a deep dislike {read  hatred} for math in school, the very concept of 22/7=3.14 being applied to mathematical problems flew over the top of my head. My poor father would break his head trying to drill some math intelligence into me. Never happened.

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies Then came food blogging, the Daring Bakers, and a LOT of new foodie friends. We had loads in common. We would wake up and hop into twitter from right across the globe, and break into a twitter chat! It was an obsession, and a load of good was born out of it too. It was in March one year when, much to our amazement, someone started a chain asking to make pies for Pi Day? Most of us crawled out from under the rock … it was a huge YES!

Pi Day is an American annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (or 3/14 in the month/day date format), 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π in decimal form. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day.

I’ve had some great pie baking on my blog. I credit a lot of what I’ve learnt to the Daring Bakers. Without them I wouldn’t have been half the baker I currently am. Some pies were FUN all the way like this Pie Bird & A Strawberry Pie I made after watching the film Life of Pi. I loved it!Strawberry Pie ... & a pie bird Some pie baking memories are poignant like the time there was a call for International Pie Day in honour of Jennifer Perillo. Jenifer’s Mikey loved Peanut Butter Cream Pie and she kept postponing making it for him. Then suddenly one day it was too late. I couldn’t make peanut butter cream pie as I had no peanut butter or cream cheese at home, but I made a no-bake Upside Down Mango Quark Cheesecake Pie. Upside Down Mango Quark Cheese PieSo was talking to the Ruchira yesterday and she said she was making a yummy Cheese & Bacon Pie … and the first thing that came to my mind was Pie Day. She was like huh? There’s something like Pie Day? So the mathematical equation was duly explained. Was she excited or what.  She loved the very idea, and that in turn got me going. I would do pie too, hand pies!

ThymeWhat a memorable day today was. Just the motivation I needed! No time to do grocery so I had to work with what I had on hand. Apples & thyme. Walnuts and cheddar are pantry staples, so I knew just what to make. Not one for an APF pastry, I decided to challenge myself. Would do a wholewheat version … and surprise, surprise, it worked beautifully. Crisp and light. You wouldn’t miss the normal pastry at all!

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies Shortcrust pastry needs delicate handling; don’t overwork it. Make sure the cut in butter is pea sized. Add just enough liquid so that it comes together comfortably, little more than just staying together than pinched. Pull it together in a ball, don’t knead the dough. The pastry gets tough. Cling wrap it into a flat disk and chill for a couple of hours. Who doesn’t like a good rest?  The pastry does too. Mine got an overnight rest so I had little work for this morning. I did the filling last night too so basically I was just down to rolling and pinching today!

Eggs & ThymeI got the eggs out for a glaze. Then decided to keep it a 100% vegetarian. Someone on FB posted a honey glaze ages ago. Unfortunately I cant remember her name, but I remember honey! I love the the goldenish brown hue it gave my pastry.  It’s a great choice if you want to keep a bake a 100% egg free. I used to do a single cream wash in the past. Honey is my new wash to go!

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies The flavours are beautiful too. Apples and walnuts are good old friends, cinnamon ties them together. Thyme and cheddar stirred in some magic. What a pleasing bite these had. Sweet little hand pies, just perfect for Pie Day. Despite being tired to bits with renovation on at home, a little nudge from a friends is all it took. It’s difficult to be optimistic all day, every day; and sometimes we need a little nudge to get on track! That is the power of being #together!

Wholewheat Apple Walnut Cheddar Thyme Hand Pies So I manged to bake pie to mark the day. Something else good also happened today. I walked 10,000 steps with the GOQii fitness band. What’s that you might ask? More about that on my next post!

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Baking | Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} … light, healthy, delicious and glutenfree {I’m ready for the new year}

“Celebrate what you want to see more of”
Thomas J. Peters

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} … wafts of sweet almond with citrusy notes of orange float through the kitchen, virtually transporting you to the Mediterranean. One bite and you will find it hard to believe that the cake is flourless with no added fat. It is delightfully moist and orange flavoured.  Almond meal adds interesting texture, and pairs beautifully with the choice of fruit.

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} It’s the peak of winters here, cold as cold can be. Day before was the coldest at 2.6C, the lowest temperature recorded in December in the past so many years. The statistics don’t leave you, neither does the deep chill. It gets into your very bones. This is North Indian winter for you. In the background the TV plays endlessly; CNN telling you about the latest aviation disaster. Dreadful news at the end of the year. I’m ready for a new year. Bye bye 2014!

Fresh & local produce, mood photographyIt’s easier to immerse yourself in what comforts you most. I click. Loads. Moody shots mainly. Sometimes you crave good news. Sometimes you wish you could turn the clock back to simple living. For times like this, I head for the kitchen, get embraced by the warmth, lose myself in the aromas that warm the cockles of your heart!Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} 5

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} Speaking to Cookaroo a couple of days ago, she mentioned she was off to make an Orange Almond Cake. Snapped me out of my somnambulent frozen state. I had an Orange Almond Cake sitting here in my drafts, one I had done for Travel & Leisure Asia a few months ago. I’ve remade it recently since oranges and back in season.

Orange Almond Cake {gluten free} With the market flooded with ripe, orange juicy fruit, it’s a great time to bake this cake. I’ve baked this a couple of times, both with oranges and with kumquats too. Always good. Made a couple of trifles as well. Orange Almond Cake, whipped cream with Grand Marnier, and some almond praline made the layers. Divine!Orange Almond Cake Trifles {gluten free}The recipe is inspired from passover cakes that find root in cuisine of the Sephardic Jews who originate from the countries of the Middle East. The cake is ‘leavened wheat free’ which is the diet that defines the passover holiday. Interestingly, ancient Greeks also savoured the combination of fruit, nuts and honey. Sugar only appeared later during the Ottoman times. The recipe first appeared in Travel & Leisure, Asia May 2014.

Bidding adieu to 2014…
Have a warm and wonderful 2015. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

A Fit Foodie recipe

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Baking | Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake … with nuts, figs and quark #MerryChristmas #fig&nutcake #garammasala

“The nutcracker sits under the holiday tree, a guardian of childhood stories. Feed him walnuts and he will crack open a tale…”
Vera Nazarian

Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake Wholewheat Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake …my way of saying thanks to a year gone by. Was a turbulent year in many ways, one that I am glad to bid adieu too. The world seems less safe, less peaceful. Yet in many ways I am grateful. I have been given opportunities that I never imagined would come my way. Gifts as well…Wholewheat Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake…from the stunning range of Mauivel1830 handmade copper ware from France to the Fujihoro retro porcelain enamelware from Japan, I found myself at the receiving end, and happily so! It has been a blessed feeling indeed, and this is just the tip of the ‘iceberg’!!Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake

Fujihoro Porcelain Enameled Kitchenware To inaugurate the copper ware, I did a fun and delicious Saffron Pistachio Indian Bread Pudding using almost the whole range that was gifted to me. It took a bit of thinking. In the en, I had an absolute blast! Saffron Pistachio Indian Bread Pudding with Mauviel 1830

Saffron Pistachio Indian Bread Pudding with Mauviel 1830 The range offers kitchen collectibles that are pure art, fantastic quality, superior workmanship and an investment if you love kitchenware. I enjoy working with these beauties, whether is is baking, cooking or just serving in them. They are wonderful to use both for Indian food, and otherwise.Apple & Pear Crumble in Mauviel1830 copperwareAnother time I baked an Apple Pear Crumble the day it rained  forever. That day onwards the cold really set in. Winter  has really dug it’s heels in, and North India is treacherously cold. Chilly winds, foggy days and barely any sunlight on most dayst. Mauviel 1830It’s a good time to be in the kitchen though. The house smells divine with warm aromas wafting through it, and everyone’s hungry all the time. ALL THE TIME! Loads of nuts and chocolate are always happening, in bakes and otherwise too. Some stir fries and vindaloos as well!Chocolate Tapioca Pudding …and plenty of experiments! I was fortunate this year to get invited to join the Saffola Fit Foodie Panel. It’s been a busy past month developing healthy and fun recipes for them. It’s something I enjoy, and it makes me think out of the box constantly. Keeps me quite busy.

Saffola Oats Fit FoodieAs the thinking develops, whole grains found their way into my annual Christmas bakes too, beginning with the Wholegrain Lingoberry Thumbprint Cookies. My recent Wholegrain Christmas Stollen with dried peach + walnuts +orange peel came out a winner, and it was this inspiration that made me think a different Christmas cake.Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas CakeFor a first, it’s a Fig and Nut cake as the boy just does not enjoy fruit in his cake anymore. The cake is also partially whole grain. To experiment further, I used some homemade quark in it as a part substitute for butter. You can see how much I enjoyed it. More so, because IMHO, this turned out to be the best Christmas cake I have made.Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake Flavoured with a favorite Indian spice, garam masala, the figs and nuts got a soaking in some Jim Beam Bourbon that was personalized and sent to me a few days ago. Not one to drink, I was quite happy to share it with the figs and nuts. The fig and nuts got a week of dunking in it, while I procrastinated. When the time finally came, I was in a hurry, so the method was fast tracked. Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake I think it worked really well. Quick Quick Quick was the way I worked, and had the cake{s} in the oven in under 30 minutes. I baked 2 small cakes too in the Mauivel1830 as I love the heavy metal it’s made of. I thought they would bake well in the copper ware…and I wasn’t wrong at all!Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake9

Recipe: Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake
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Summary: A healthy take on my normal Christmas cake. The Wholegrain Bourbon Garam Masala Christmas Cake is part wholewheat and also uses some home made quark to replace the butter. The flavours of garam masala really bring it alive, as do the bourbon undertones. Feel free to increase the spirit, or use coffee or orange juice as a substitute. It’s a quick batter to throw together, just right for the holiday season.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours, plus time to soak fruit
Ingredients:

  • Fig & Nut mix
  • 250g walnuts, chopped
  • 250g cashew nuts, chopped
  • 50g crystallised orange peel
  • 50g crystallised ginger
  • 125g dried figs, chopped
  • 125ml Jim Bean bourbon
  • 15g /1 tbsp garam masala powder
  • Fruit cake
  • 100g whole wheat flour
  • 100g all purpose flour
  • 100g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 150g homemade quark
  • 200g brown sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Topping
  • 25-30ml bourbon for drizzling

Method:

  1. Place all the ingredients for the fig and nut mix in a large bowl. Toss well together to make sure the spices and bourbon are mixed right through. Cover and leave overnight, or as long as you like. I left it out on the counter for a week since it’s freezing cold. If it is warm, maybe you can place it in the fridge.
  2. Preheat the oven to 150C.
  3. Line a 8″ round loose bottomed baking tin with 2 sheets of parchment {the cake bakes slowly and it’s important to protect the bottom}
  4. Sift together both the flours, and toss the fruit in the flour mix.
  5. In a large bowl, beat the sugar, butter and quark until light and mousse like. Beat in the eggs, followed by the vanilla extract, baking powder and salt.
  6. Add the dry mix and stir well to make a uniform thick batter.
  7. Turn into prepared tin, and bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours. My oven uses just the bottom element for baking. I turned the upper element for 7-10 minutes to brown the top.
  8. Leave to cool in tin.
  9. Turn out and drizzle over with the extra bourbon. Slice and serve immediately…
  10. … or wrap tightly in cling wrap and let mature at room temperature/in a cool place for 3-4 days. 

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