Worldly things were of little meaning. She lived for hamburgers, ice cream, pencil and paper. 
Carol Adams
I’m really really gutted and you might wonder why. I feel as if I lost the first prize and walked away with the consolation prize. At the heart of my misery is my rather late discovery of the granita. Have actually contemplated making it quite often, but never with such a sense of urgency until I saw this post on House of Annie. I was generally googling for something fun and refreshing to do with the last plums and peaches of the season, and this particular post had me gaping! Annie had made peach and plum granita and I just knew what my next sweet stone thing was going to be!
Annie made both granitas but her recommendation on the peach flavours were far more exciting – Peach & Ginger? Yes please! I had the sugar syrup and ginger simmering in no time. Her feedback on the plum granita wasn’t too good, and sent me looking for another. I settled for a Bon Apetit recipe I found on Epicurious. The vanilla bean had my attention, and I am really glad I tried this one.

Both the flavours turned out over the top fantastic which is why I was so cheesed off. Oh to have discovered something so good at the very end of the season! I know how my next stone season  looks  …  a fridge full of granitas for sure! And before I forget, I read somewhere that you scrape the granita with the fork every 30 minutes to keep the ice crystals small! They taste so good once they reach freezing point, that it’s difficult to keep away from stealing a bite. The son ran out of ‘scraping with the fork’ patience, “It’s OK Mama, we can eat it like this!”, while Mr PAB grabbed the fork and said “WTH is this? It’s fab“!

For me, the hard work was the pushing the pulp through the sieve. It took forever, or like forever. Also, my granitas took a whole day before reaching freezing point. Maybe I need a new fridge, maybe… I adjusted the sugar in the plum granita because the plums were quite sour. I also added 2 drops of red food colour as the plums weren’t the dark red ones. You can skip that, but I let them be to give me colour contrast with the peach. Oh yes, one more thing … once out of the freezer, granita melts really fast!

I’ve learnt since that running the plums through a blender is MUCH better than using a processor. Managed to achieve the other thing I had bookmarked and that was this delicious to the last drop plum lemonade, posted here. My last lot of plums were squishily sitting in the fridge till day before, and  now I have them blended. One more thing  on my list to do using plums before we are done with the season, a plum fro yo. Mmmm …

Plum Vanilla Granita

Adapted minimally from Epicurious {Bon Appétit}
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
1 1/2 pounds plums, pitted, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Combine water, sugar and cinnamon in heavy small saucepan. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced to 3/4 cup, about 2 minutes. Cool syrup completely.
Puree the plums in processor. Press enough puree through sieve to measure 1 1/2 cups. Strain syrup into puree and blend well. Transfer mixture to a shallow 9 X 5 loaf tin. Freeze plum mixture until flaky crystals form, stirring every 30 minutes, about 4 hours. After it hardens, use a fork to scrape it up into coarse granules. {Can be made 1 week ahead. Cover; keep frozen}

Peach Granita

1″ piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
7-8 large peaches, stoned

Slice the ginger into slivers and boil them along with the cup of sugar and cup of water
Cut up the peaches and blend along with the slivers of ginger from the syrup. Then strain the puree through a sieve. To the puree add the juice of one lime, and then the ginger sugar syrup. Pour into a shallow dish and place in freezer. After it hardens, use a fork to scrape it up into coarse granules.

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥
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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India
“Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”
Noel Cowards
The origin of that expression is from Rudyard Kipling who once described the delirium produced by the sun in India, observing that only “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noonday sun”. We fitted in right with it when we went out in the afternoon yesterday. Was it hot, or was it hot? Mr PAB, who is just recovering from a bad bout of tummy virus, dehydration and subsequent hospitalisation, had some urgent pending work, so yours truly volunteered to play chauffeur! What kept me going was the thought of getting back home to some chilled ale!

Ouf!! We’ve had a hot summer, and when I say hot, I mean HOT! The temperatures have consistently stayed in the mid 40C’s and there has been little respite. This is the peak of the North Indian summer, which is known for being as treacherous and unrelenting as can be. It’s customary for folk like me to wake up each morning and whiff the morning air for any hint of rain coming our way. ZILCH! Day after day we are faced with heat and dust, and power-cuts of course!
What makes the heat bearable and often enjoyable is refreshing posts like this one by Aran Goyoaga of Canelle et Vanille, an award winning blogger who continues to amaze and inspire me with her posts. The minute I saw the ginger ale, the mixology and the bubbles, I knew it was going to be a happy summer. Suddenly life seemed so much more bearable and worthwhile! Summer is for ginger ale! YES! I truly loved Aran’s post at Design Sponge, characteristic of her aesthetic photographs and her evocative writing. The advent of fresh ginger this season had me longing for ale. A simple and fun recipe, with ‘mixology’ thrown in, something for everyone… what more could we want this summer?

The glasses I’ve served the bubbly in are typically the sort found across India, and are used to serve tea in road-side tea stalls. They’ve been around for as long as I can remember. I remember seeing them when we used to travel by train as kids. It was either these or little terracotta cups, but they form a part of  the essence of India. I had gone into the heart of the old city a few days go on work, and found an old lady selling tea in these. Of course I immediately asked her if I could buy a set. She pleaded with her rather unrelenting old man, eventually persuading him into agreeing, then happily packed them off with me. Her only question was what I would do with these? Sweet lady!

The bottles in the background are also part of our cultural heritage if I may say so. Summer in North India is not complete without crates of these available at every street corner. They are filled with lime juice and sealed with a marble on top, offering a thirst quencher for the man on the street. They are called called ‘bunta-bottle’  in the local lingo, bunta meaning marble. I love the shape of the bottle and the heaviness of the glass too. Though I am now very iffy about the source of water that fills the bottle, I bought them for their rustic charm!

To get to the mixology stage, with strawberries being from a season gone by, my next best bet for a consommé  lay in peaches.Yes, indeed, stone fruits – the other thing that makes summer so much fun. Googling didn’t throw up anything, so I did what I thought was best, and made a consommé of peaches. Since it was less potent than strawberry consommé, I had to use more than 1 tbsp, and it lent a subtle hint of peachiness to the ale. This ale is a wonderful addition to summer!

Homemade Ginger Ale:
Adapted from Aran Goyoaga’s recipe posted @ Design Sponge
25g fresh ginger, grated
1 cup raw sugar
½ cup water
Juice of 2 limes
1/8 tsp active dry yeast
7 cups water

In a small saucepan, add the grated ginger, raw sugar and ½ cup water. Bring to a boil and let sugar dissolve. Remove pan from heat and let the syrup steep and cool for about 30 minutes.
Strain the syrup through a fine sieve. Mix with the lime juice, yeast and 7 cups of water. Whisk together and using a funnel, pour into a plastic bottle. Screw the cap on the bottle. Make sure it is a plastic bottle and not glass as the gases from the fermentation can crack the glass jar.
Let it ferment at room temperature for about 2 days until carbonation forms. Make sure to refrigerate after it starts to carbonate.

Peach Consommé:
{Aran made a sweet strawberry consommé}
1 lb fresh peaches, peeled, pitted & chopped
½ cup sugar

In a bowl, toss together the peaches and sugar. Cover the bowl and let them macerate for 2-3 hours, and puree.
Strain through a coffee filter and leave to stand undisturbed for 4-5 hours. Do not press as we only want to collect the clear juice.

1/2 cup homemade ginger ale
2 Tbs peach consommé
1 Tbs vodka to taste (optional)
Fresh lemon slices
In a rocks glass mix the ingredients. Add ice to chill. Squeeze a fresh lemon to taste and garnish with fresh lemon and strawberry slices. Serve and enjoy!

♥ Thank you for stopping by ♥

Don’t miss a post
Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

As I sign off, just a reminder for a giveaway I am hosting courtesy of CSN Stores. On offer is a one-time-use $80 gift certificate for one lucky winner to use as they wish on any of the CSN websites. Do leave a comment HERE if you wish to take part.
“And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.
William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost
HO HO HO… Come home to the Daring Bakers, to a wonderful, fragrant, sweet smelling holiday home.

This month we open the doors and hearts of our beautiful gingerbread homes to you.

The December 2009 Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to you by Anna of Very Small Anna and Y of Lemonpi. They chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ everywhere to bake and assemble a gingerbread house from scratch. They chose recipes from Good Housekeeping and from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book as the challenge recipes.
Making the gingerbread house was fun, scary most of the way, and full of ‘challenge‘! I used Y’s Scandinavian recipe from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book, a Beatrice Ojakangas’ recipe, because I had all the ingredients on hand and it sounded simple enough. As Y said, if you’re using this recipe, please be aware that in general, gingerbread for houses are usually designed less for taste and more for it’s ability to be sturdy and long lasting.

Something I would have never dreamt of making otherwise, though I longingly look at pictures in books and magazines…and blogs of course! It’s amazing the sort of energy that grabs you when push comes to shove, and you know you have to do ‘it’. In this case, I had to, and more importantly ‘wanted to make this too.

The dough was not easy to manage. Kneading that huge amount of dough by hand took me forever and left me gasping for breath. In hindsight, I should have halved the portions as I still have some leftover in the fridge. That is also because I dreamt of making this huge castle, turret towers and the works. Thereafter, began looking at designs and dimensions, panicked big time, and downsized my dreams. Fell back to reality with a mighty thud and ended up with a rustic little cottage.

That was the time I began talking to Y on twitter about my dough and very abstract pattern. A few tweets later I felt much better and confident once again. She patiently talked me through the dough, my cracked walls etc. Yes, a few folk had trouble with their dough not being moist enough etc. I think that is largely due to the different types of flour available across the globe. I used slightly less flour (850gms), and yet my dough was dry, so I added some more water. I got a very firm dough, which was far too firm to roll out easily once chilled, so I ran it in the microwave for 20 seconds before using it. Worked fine. I didn’t suffer any shrinkage, though the cracks were there.

I scaled down a template I found online, and roughly drew sketches on a scrap of paper. Very abstract (cause of my panic), and in the end, very lucky. Had an impressed DH in the end who said I did a good job with the measurements.

I piped on royal icing in abstract patterns before finally gluing the house together. We don’t have beautiful Christmas candy, peppermint sticks etc available here like the West does, so I stuck to basics that I could do on my own. Made cookie dough snowflakes from a set on snowflake plunger cutters that Nic @ Cherrapeno got for me when I met her in London for the Food Blogger Connect a couple of weeks ago. They are lovely! Thanks a ton Nicole!

Putting the house together wasn’t a one man job for me. I engaged the services of the engineer on hand, and DH and me built together our sweet little house, patiently and with much fun. It’s a great family project and was a first ‘building a baked home’ for me. We were slightly under confident of the sugar glue, but woot, never seen firmer and more effective quick edible superglue than this!

In the end we were pretty pleased with our Gingerbread home. I wish I had put it on a better base but it was too late to change that. Once done the hub decided that it was definitely missing a chimney, so I set to make one sawing off extra bits of biscuit I had baked, and voila, there it was! The cookie dough was quite delicious too.

Thank you Y and Anna for an enriching, challenging and engaging project for December. We loved building our home again, and the kids cannot wait to have a chomp at it.

Scandinavian Gingerbread House (Pepparkakstuga)
from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas
Y’s Recipe
(Half recipe would work fine for a small house. I got a lot of left over dough)
1 cup butter, room temperature [226g]
1 cup brown sugar, well packed [220g]
2 tablespoons cinnamon
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ cup boiling water
5 cups all-purpose flour [875g]

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until blended. Add the cinnamon, ginger and cloves. Mix the baking soda with the boiling water and add to the dough along with the flour. Mix to make a stiff dough. If necessary add more water, a tablespoon at a time. Chill 2 hours or overnight.

Cut patterns for the house, making patterns for the roof, front walls, gabled walls, chimney and door out of cardboard.

Roll the dough out on a large, ungreased baking sheet and place the patterns on the dough. Mark off the various pieces with a knife, but leave the pieces in place.

[I rolled out the dough on a floured bench, roughly 1/8 inch thick (which allows for fact that the dough puffs a little when baked), cut required shapes and transferred these to the baking sheet. Any scraps I saved and rerolled at the end.]

Preheat the oven to 375’F (190’C). Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until the cookie dough feels firm.

After baking, again place the pattern on top of the gingerbread and trim the shapes, cutting the edges with a straight-edged knife. Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

Royal Icing:
(I made half this portion)
1 large egg white
3 cups (330g) powdered sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon almond extract

Beat all ingredients until smooth, adding the powdered sugar gradually to get the desired consistency. Pipe on pieces and allow to dry before assembling. If you aren’t using it all at once you can keep it in a small bowl, loosely covered with a damp towel for a few hours until ready to use. You may have to beat it slightly to get it an even consistency if the top sets up a bit. Piped on the house, this will set up hard over time.

Simple Syrup:
(I made half this portion)
2 cups (400g) sugar

Place in a small saucepan and heat until just boiling and the sugar dissolves. Dredge or brush the edges of the pieces to glue them together. If the syrup crystallizes, remake it.
Thank you for stopping by

Thank you Lis and Ivonne for holding this wonderful group of daring baker types of people together! Make sure you head over to other Daring Bakers homes HERE, and knock on their doors this Christmas.

There is some amazing jaw-dropping talent out there!

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Passionate About Baking has been nominated at ‘The Homies 2009’ in the Home Cooking category at ‘The Kitchen‘. If you like, you can vote HERE!

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