“The truth is that life is delicious, horrible, charming, frightful, sweet, bitter, and that is everything.”
Anatole France

Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread CrustI’ve never delayed a Daring Baker challenge this long before, and it gave me palpitations! Seriously, in my 3 years as DB, I’ve usually hit the ground running within the first week. This time around things just don’t seem to want to fall into place. My blog was throttling me, in addition to a million other things {you really don’t want to know, and life goes on!} Well,  I completed the challenge a few hours ago , and happily so!Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread Crust

The April 2011 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Evelyne of the blog Cheap Ethnic Eatz. Evelyne chose to challenge everyone to make a maple mousse in an edible container. Prizes are being awarded to the most creative edible container and filling, so vote on your favorite from April 27th to May 27th at!

I didn’t to the maple mousse as authentic maple syrup is very expensive here, and not  easily available. The other bit of the challenge was the edible container. Heavens knows I had thoughts, many edible delicious thoughts, but summer in India is treacherous. With daytime highs already hitting 40C, melting mousses is more the call! My thoughts of sugar cookie boxes, cream rolls, spun sugar, chocolate coffee mugs with an espresso mousse, a pistachio meringue with lemon curd mousse all laid to rest!Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread CrustI liked Evelynes idea of nut bowls, and of course got mighty distracted. I eventually googled my way and found Mollie Katzens Strawberry Meringue Tart with Walnut Shortbread Crust. It looked absolutely gorgeous and I had 2 boxes of strawberries on hand. I was fascinated by the beautiful meringue on topBUT Fast track desserts one day before the posting date = BAD IDEA! Once I got the tart shells baking {walnut shortbread tart shells = edible containers!}, I put the berries to simmer…Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread Crust It was only half way through that I realised I was actually making a strawberry curd, very similar to a pastry cream. It did look deep pink and gorgeous once done, and I happily ladled it into my very delicate edible containers. One word of caution on the tart shells – they are very delicate {and very delicious too!}. Maybe the dough was overly soft as the weather is so warm here. I would probably add another 1/4 cup flour next time around, or would use this walnut shortcrust pastry dough that I used in these Dark Chocolate and Sour Orange Walnut Tartlets. Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread CrusI happily spooned my very cheerful looking strawberry curd into the tart shells and offered a small taster to Mr PAB. He doesn’t mince his words unfortunately, and I hated him when he said it wasn’t the best. I could have strangled him as posting date was around the corner; he looked positively unhappy. He suggested it might taste better after chilling in the fridge for a bit, and I knew this wasn’t looking good! {He said it had a slight eggy flavour. For me, that is just doesn’t work at all!!}Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread CrustTurned the oven off, pushed the whites away; sadly there was going to be no meringue! Off to my beloved kitchen, mind working overtime, I began whipping cream. I would do a whipped strawberry curd cream filling, and all would be well with the world again! In went a dash of sugar {and vanilla bean powder to it as well}, and it was whipped it to medium stiff peaks. I then folded half the strawberry curd into it. I can say I felt much better, and one lick of the spatula told me that the sun was shining again!! Mr PAB gave this version a beamer!

Thank you Evelyne for the delicious challenge.{I’m sorry I couldn’t do the maple mousse}.  Thank you as always Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice for hosting this fab kitchen!! Do stop by HERE and check out how the stunning creativity of the other Daring Bakers!


Strawberry Meringue Tart with Walnut Shortbread Crust

Whipped Strawberry Curd Cream Tartlets with Walnut Shortbread Crustadapted from Mollie Katzens recipe {for California Walnut Board}
Course: Dessert | Serves: 6 |
2/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/4 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup all-purpose flour (plus extra for rolling dough)
teaspoon salt
{1/2 quantity required for this recipe}
3 small eggs yolks
400gms strawberries, sliced
1 vanilla bean, scraped
1/8 cup cornstarch or arrowroot
1/2 cup sugar {might require more if strawberries are tart}
1/2 tsp salt
Zest of 1 lime
1/3 cup fresh lime juice {3-4 limes}
200ml low fat cream, chilled
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla powder {optional}
For the crust:
Preheat oven to 190C.
Place walnuts plus 2 tablespoons sugar in food processor; process to powder with series of bursts. Add remaining sugar and butter; process 3 minutes more. Add flour and salt; process just until dough holds together.
Press dough into flattened disc {if dough is too soft, chill for 20 minutes in refrigerator}.
Gently press dough into six 3-inch loose bottomed tart pans, or a 9-inch tart pan with removable base; press dough down and ease dough into corners and up sides. Prick dough all over with fork. {Use extra dough to make sides thicker.)
Place sheet of parchment or foil in crust; weigh it down with pie weights or dried beans, and bake in lower third of oven 15 minutes. Remove parchment or foil and pie weights; continue baking crust until deep golden all over {10 to 12 minutes longer}. Cool completely before filling.
For the strawberry curd:
Place strawberries in medium-size saucepan. Without adding any liquid, cover and cook 5 to 8 minutes over medium heat until soup-like {watch carefully so not to stick or burn}; set aside.
Meanwhile, in larger saucepan, combine cornstarch or arrowroot, 1/2 cup sugar, salt and lemon zest. Stir in lime juice, whisking until uniform.
Whisk egg yolks with scraped vanilla bean until smooth, then drizzle yolks into cornstarch mixture, whisking constantly. Continue beating mixture and slowly pour in hot strawberries and their liquid.
Place saucepan over medium heat; bring mixture to a boil, stirring constantly {but not too fast} with wooden spoon until mixture thickens. Set aside to cool, about 30 minutes.
Whisk cream with sugar and vanilla powder to medium stiff peaks. Fold in the strawberry curd {just half the above quantity, reserve rest for later, else make 1/2 quantity} gently with a spatula.
Spoon into tart shells, and chill for about 2 hours before serving.

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“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”
John Wooden
It’s time for the Daring Bakers and this time I have to say I’m sorry I couldn’t keep a date with the challenge. My kitchen is ‘under attack‘ {read renovation}, and things are still in disarray. What should have been completed last week is yet to be done, dragging on frustratingly. That’s not to say I haven’t managed to sneak in a bake now and then, but I couldn’t manage the chocolate dipping stage etc of the challenge. I did have a LMP {last minute plan} with some clarified butter on hand. Thought I could manage the brown butter pound cake, but bad store-keeping meant that the jar was empty, and my plans fell through. Fate maybe?
I did however set up a personal challenge for myself, something I have always vehemently denied as possible, an EGGLESS CAKE! No es posible has been my standard response to the many mails I have received in the past. A cake sans eggs? You kidding me? How in the world would it get a crumb, find rise, be good to eat etc! Eventually ate my words with this beautiful cake from Sailu’s Kitchen. {Gear up dear readers for a longish post because I tried 2 versions, with butter and with olive oil, and both were wonderful!}
I tread the kitchen floor mildly, in mortal fear that the cake would not be a cake. Never baked one without eggs. The other surprise ingredient was home made yogurt. I set yogurt at home every other day, and bake with it often, but eggs always keep the yogurt company. I watched in childlike fascination when the cake began to rise, rejoicing wildly, thankfully in solitude! Who would be able to understand the sheer joy of an eggless cake rising? I {almost} followed each step religiously, something I don’t often do, but…
… expectedly had a last minute ‘moment of panic‘, and added butter instead of oil to make sure the guinea pigs wouldn’t reject it outright! Oil sans eggs was just not convincing at the time, and I thought the luxury of butter might rescue my cake from rejection. I needn’t have been so skeptical, and the next time I used my stash of Borges olive oil from here. The cake exceeded all expectations! It was moist, it was flavourful, and above all, it was an eggless cake with a beautiful crumb! Beautiful enough to disappear very fast, some stashed away by the daughter for friends who don’t eat eggs, the rest enjoyed on a rainy day!

Eggless Chocolate and Vanilla Cake with Cherries
Adapted minimally from Sailu’s Kitchen
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, sieved
1 cup yogurt {home made}
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted {or oil}
1/2 vanilla bean {optional}
1/2 cup frozen cherries {optional}
1 heaped tbsp cocoa {I used Valrhona}
1 sachet vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 200 C for 10 minutes. Grease a 6″ round tin, and line the bottom.
Beat the vanilla sugar, scraped vanilla bean and yogurt for 5 minutes on high speed. Add baking powder and baking soda, beat in on low, and allow to stand for 3 minutes. You will find that bubbles appear.
Beat in the melted butter and vanilla essence. Next, slowly add the flour in 4 lots, blending in well after each addition.
Take 1/3 of the dough in a separate bowl and stir in the cocoa. {You can make just vanilla as well, in which case, omit this step}
Add 1/2 the vanilla batter to the bottom of the tin, smooth it out to spread across the whole surface. Add all the chocolate batter, and smoothen it out too. It might be pretty thick, as mine was. Top with the remaining vanilla batter to make a third layer. Top with frozen cherries if using, and sprinkle over the sachet of vanilla sugar.
Bake at 200C for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 175C and bake for 40-45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. {Original recipe uses a ring mold I think, and the baking time at 175C was 20-25 minutes. Mine took a lot longer, so test before taking it out of the o}.
Cool the cake for 20-30 minutes and then overturn onto a plate.
Wait for an hour or two before slicing it else it doesn’t slice neatly. {My kids couldn’t wait}. The cake was very good the next day too, and sliced beautifully!

I would suggest the use of a good quality dark cocoa, having recently discovered that it can make a huge difference. I used Valrhona that Shayma from The Spice Spoon sent for me, and after experiencing it’s virtues first hand in this Chocolate Almond Biscotti, I am totally sold on it! I added a scraped vanilla bean to the batter as I love the depth of flavour vanilla offers to baked goods, and some frozen cherries to give the cake a cheerful face-lift. Also a smattering of vanilla sugar on top, just because …

Small piece of advicemake sure you let the cake sit in the tin to cool for 30 minutes before turning it out. Also try and resist the temptation to slice it when warm. We couldn’t of course, but I found later that it sliced beautifully after 3-4 hours, or even the next day as it firmed up. This is a nice basic recipe to have on hand for folk who need an eggless cake for various reasons whether health, allergic, religious etc.

I had to get back to try the oil version soon enough as the Borges bottles on my shelf tempted me yet again. Time for eggless cake version 2, and this time around I enjoyed myself thoroughly, baking in careless abandon, knowing that things would work out well. I made the cake early in the morning, the minute the kids left for school, and then chilled it for a couple of hours after it had cooled down. Moist, deep, chocolaty and to die for! The walnuts scattered on top got nicely toasted, and added to the flavours.
The idea of making an eggless cake, without any compulsions, came to me whenever I looked at PAB’s search results on Lijit. Do you give your stats a second look? I’ve recently started looking at them for direction, inspiration, ideas etc and found several searches for an eggless cake. I was recently inspired from there to make a Mango Vanilla Bavarian Cream Cake. Todays view looks something like this

Passionate About Baking

You have been searched 1498 times about chocolate sauce pudding, kebabs, strawberry bread, pie, tandoori roti
View your search stats.
and I can already feel a ‘kebab inspiration‘ coming in!!

The thought of an eggless cake crossed my mind often, but I never did come across a recipe that tempted me out of my ignorance. Until I saw this post. It intrigued me and I looked at it in disbelief … Was it possible that an eggless cake could look so good and picture perfect? I had to give it a go, and am darned glad I did! You will be too if you are looking for a good eggless cake recipe. This was fabulous, and gone in a day between the kids and their friends! Without further ado, here is the 2nd version, using olive oil!
Lesson learnt … ‘Anything is possible, and fear needs to be conquered!’

Eggless Chocolate Walnut Cake
Adapted minimally from Sailu’s Kitchen
1 cup all-purpose flour,
1/2 cup good quality cocoa powder {I used Valrhona}
1 cup yogurt {home made}
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup olive oil {I used Borges from here}
1/2 vanilla bean {optional}
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1 sachet vanilla sugar

Preheat oven to 200C. Grease a 6″ round tin, and line the bottom.
Beat the vanilla sugar, scraped vanilla bean and yogurt for 5 minutes on high speed. Add baking powder and baking soda, beat in on low, and allow to stand for 3 minutes. You will find that bubbles appear.
Sift the flour and cocoa 2-3 times. Reserve in bowl.
Beat in the olive oil. Slowly add the flour mix in 3-4 lots, blending in well after each addition.
Sprinkle the top with chopped walnuts, followed by a sprinkling of vanilla sugar from the sachet.
Bake at 200C for 10 minutes, reduce temperature to 175C and bake for 40-45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. {The original recipe used a ring mold I think, and the baking time at 175C was 20-25 minutes. Mine took a lot longer}.
Cool the cake for 20-30 minutes and then overturn onto a plate.

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“The hardest thing in life to learn is which bridge to cross and which to burn.”
David Russell

Ready For Dessert? Always!! Our home is always ready for dessert and it guarantees making the main meal so much more enjoyable. The air of anticipation, new variety coming forth … and if it’s chocolate, then it’s nirvana! I made these a while ago, or rather quite a while ago, and didn’t get down to posting them. Today is a happy day because the kids schools have finally reopened after more than 2 months of summer vacations, and I feel a sense of relief. Still scrabbling to get my life back in some order, to feel sane again …

As the story goes, the other day I saw a tweet about a Food Photo Competition from Leite’s Culinaria. I was all ears! I love food photos and competitions. So what if I don’t seem to win them, but taking a shot is always good! It was simple to enter. Find a recipe on Leite’s Culinaria that looks interesting to you, whip it up and make it strike a pose! Leite’s Culinaria is one of those places where the ‘want to make now‘ choice is ample, and it was a tough decision…

I spent the rest of my day browsing recipe after recipe on the site, and was amazed at how many I had bookmarked. There were so many I wanted to try, but eventually stopped short at ‘Robert’s Absolute Best brownies‘ from David Lebovitz’s latest book ‘Ready For Dessert‘. Of course, what I didn’t take into account was the fact that I never find chocolate stuff easy to click. Too late I guess, because the heart was set on these indulgent brownies! His introduction to the recipe had me sold, and I HAD to make them soon.

In Monsieur Lebovitz’s words {I could almost see his cynical expression as I read the commentary} …

 I have a blanket mistrust of any recipe with a superlative in the title. “The Ultimate” or “The World’s Finest” always makes me raise an eyebrow. But how else can I describe these brownies? I’ve made a lot of brownies in my life, and these really are the best. I learned to make them from the late Robert Steinberg, who changed the world of American chocolate when he cofounded Scharffen Berger chocolate. Part of Robert’s unique charm was that he was quick to argue and that he, like most people who hold strong opinions on things food-wise, was invariably right when you would taste the results.
He adapted his brownie recipe from one by cookbook author Maida Heatter. The first time I made the brownies, they were a dry, crumbly disaster. Unconvinced that they were worthy of their accolades, I listened carefully as he walked me through the steps. When he asked if I had stirred the batter vigorously for 1 full minute, I stammered and then finally admitted that I cut that step short. “Aha!” he said. So I made them again, and discovered that was one life-changing minute.

I had the butter and chocolate in a pan in a jiffy, a baker on a mission, on a brownie high! Of course it was another matter that we ran into a major power outage by the time I was done stirring the batter VIGOROUSLY for 1 whole minute {gosh, didn’t think a vigorous minute would be so long!} Just as I turned the batter into the tin, and popped it into my nicely preheated oven, DING! There was a power-cut, and I was gutted! But then, having gotten used to such hapless situations more often than warranted in the summer, I just let the batter sit in the oven. What could go wrong? In any case there was no baking powder in it … ho hum! I aired my grievances on twitter … here’s a teenie bit of the banter…

davidlebovitz: @vindee 2 hours? I couldn’t wait that long. I’d just eat the batter : )

vindee: @davidlebovitz LOL … I might hv had a go if I hadn’t been so egg phobic. Fought the daughter off though. She was ready to dive in!!

Clichéd as it may sound, these did indeed turn out to be the best brownies ever. Fudgy, chocolaty and very ‘perfect-brownie like’ in taste. They baked well despite the fiasco I had with the power outage. I had to fight the kids to stay away from them, and predictably, they didn’t last very long. It’s a drop dead simple recipe, and a one-bowl one. Pay attention to that vigorous minute, you must. It might seem never-ending, but it seems to hold the secret to this great recipe.

Robert’s Absolute Best Brownies
Recipe posted on Leite’s Culinaria from David Lebovitz, Ready for Dessert
Makes 9 to 12 brownies
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted or salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for the pan
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C).

Line the inside of a 9-inch square pan with 2 lengths of foil, positioning the sheets perpendicular to each other and allowing the excess to extend beyond the edges of the pan, or with a single large sheet of extra wide foil or parchment paper. Lightly butter the foil or parchment.
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter. Add the chocolate and stir until it is melted and smooth. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sugar and vanilla until combined. Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Add the flour and stir energetically for 1 full minute—time yourself—until the batter loses its graininess, becomes smooth and glossy, and pulls away a bit from the sides of the saucepan. Stir in the chopped nuts.
Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until the center feels almost set, about 30 minutes. Do not overbake.
Let the brownie cool completely in the pan—this is the difficult part—before lifting the foil or parchment and the block of brownie out of the pan. Cut the brownie into squares. {The brownies will keep well for up to 4 days and can be frozen for 1 month}
This recipe takes well to mix-ins. I’ll sometimes add 1/3 cup (45 g) chopped dried cherries or 1/3 cup cocoa nibs to the batter. To make minty brownies, crush the contents of one 50-gram tin of peppermint Altoids in a sturdy resealable plastic bag. Add the crushed mints to the batter along with the nuts (or, if you prefer, omit the nuts). If you like very minty brownies, add 1/2 teaspoon mint extract along with the crushed mints.
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