Baking | Tribute to The Queen of All Daring Bakers, Lis … and Savoury Phyllo Chicken Pot Pies #tributetolis #daringbakers

“Once a Daring Baker, always a Daring Baker. It’s the best baking community on the web!”

Daring BakersHow do you begin to pay a tribute to someone who made a lot of us who or what we are today! We woke up to the tragic news that that the very largehearted & fun, the cornerstone of the best group for bakers ever created, the Daring Bakers,  Lisa passed away. With the lovely Ivonne, Lisa inspired, she cajoled, she filled in, she encouraged, she whipped us along, whisking us into a homogenous group … one of the best baking communities ever created on the web.

RIP Lis, The Queen of All Daring Bakers

Lisa Cifelli of La Mia Cucina, co-founder of The Daring Kitchen (originally The Daring Bakers) passed away unexpectedly a few days ago. Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Lis, understands how much she will be missed. Her big heart, incredible sense of humor, epic emails, and mad organization skills were legendary. Bless her eternally cotton socks! {Kelly P}

Baklava with phyllo from scratch

In November 2006, Lisa of La Mia Cucina and Ivonne of Cream Puffs in Venice decided to challenge themselves to bake pretzels for the very first time using the same recipe. They each went ahead and posted about it on November 18, 2006. Having enjoyed that experience tremendously, they decided to try it again the next month, this time choosing to bake biscotti. And to make matters even better, they were joined by a few more food bloggers. As the months went by, their baking group continued to grow, until it was finally decided that this “little baking group” had to have a name and The Daring Bakers were born! The Daring Cooks were formed in 2009 as a way to learn how to become better home cooks. The idea spread like wildfire with 1000’s of people who also wished to learn more joined in on the monthly challenges.

Today, The Daring Bakers and The Daring Cooks span the world as bakers/cooks of all nationalities come together once a month to try something new in the kitchen!

Homemade evaporated milk for Tres LechesI am the baker that I am only because of the Daring Bakers. It’s been a steep upward climb at times. We’ve been through 18 pages of recipe for Julia Childs French Loaf  in Feb ’08. We’ve giggled & wept together, have whispered behind the scenes, gasped in horror when one of us let the cat out of the bag on twitter before the sacred posting date! What a community!

Daring Bakers 2In the spirit of this fabulous, close knit community, we’ve come together, some still with the group, some who left a while ago, and lots of new DBr’s … united together to pay a tribute to the Queen of Daring Bakers! {Thank you for doing this Kelly P} I have made some of my best food blogger friends thanks to the DBs. Lis and Ivonne created something magical on the web; something that has never been replicated!

Daring Bakers I say it to myself every month, I love being a Daring Baker! I miss a few as I struggle to cut out carbs, attempt to go wheat free, yet the temptation is always there. Looking back at previous challenges, the first one still comes to mind, as real as it was happening yesterday. Dark Chocolate Beetroot Cake with Peanut Butter Filling  I was chuffed to be accepted as a Daring Baker way back in January 2008. The very first challenge was a Lemon Meringue Pie. It was the ‘dark baking ages‘ in India at the time; I was very new to meringues and such. Oh how I wept. I still remember the emails exchanged with Lis and the encouragement and inspiration she offered. My pie wept, and I with it. Thought they’d chuck me out of the group. Felt like I had failed a major!

Lis stopped by to say…  “Pure genius going with the lil hearts on the crust! Would you mind if I did that one day? :) Well I’m sorry it didn’t turn out as you intended, but it sure did turn out pretty! Welcome to the DB’ers! xoxo

The camaraderie grew as a bunch of us chatted away behind the screens, discussing challenges in loud whispers. Meeta, Jamie, Ilva, Hilda, Dharam, Val, Kelly P, Barbara, Rosa, Jasmine, Judy, Andrea, Susan, Aparna, Coco … so many others! 

Oh those days! Some of my all time favourite challenges were …

Povitica ... A Croatian Sweet Walnut BreadPovitica {one of my most pinned and visited posts}, Momofukus Infamous Crack PieSans Rival CakeFilled Pate a Choux SwansBaklava with phyllo from scratch,Stollen PuddingDutch Crunch Bread or TijgerbroodTiramisu, Croquembouche

Daring Bakers

Jaconde imprime /entremetsMango Pastel de Tres LechesGingerbread HouseBattenbergDark Chocolate Beetroot Cake with Peanut Butter icing …and so so many more. We struggled sometimes, we conquered each time. Every  challenge meaningful.

Lighter Chicken Pot Pies with homemade phylloI missed posting the October challenge. I thought I would skip it, then got very tempted, succumbed past the date … and then procrastinated a little as the pictures sat in the camera. Had the post sched for this weekend. RIP beautiful lady! The Kitchen has taught me a lot!

Lighter Chicken Pot Pies with homemade phyllo Lighter Chicken Pot Pies with homemade phyllo … inspiration can strike anytime, this time from another Daring Baker, Suma in Bangalore. She pinged me the other day wondering why I hadn’t done it, given that it was savoury and I love everything savoury!

Hannah of Rise and Shine was our October 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she challenged us to bake our own double crusted savory pot pies. Using any from-scratch crust and filling we choose, we were allowed to get completely creative with our recipe, showing off the savory flavors and fillings from our own home or region.

Lighter Chicken Pot Pies with homemade phyllo I am steering clear of all purpose flour in my baking, and personally have been off wheat for over 6 months in an attempt to sort out some allergies. Mr PAB too has recently joined me, so I was a guinea pig short.

Lighter Chicken Pot Pies with homemade phyllo The daughter is on a diet, low carbs etc … but I could see she would love this. We love pot pies at home. The boy of course is game for anything and everything pot pie, chicken, pastry. Just churn out delicious bakes day after day… and he is a happy camper. The pies were everything good!!

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Festive Food | Moong Dal Halwa, Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters, Baklava from scratch … have a sweet Diwali

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”
Oprah Winfrey

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa 1Moong Dal Halwa,  Dark Chocolate Nut Clusters, Baklava from scratch how can we not go sweet on Diwali, the festival of lights? The halwa is special. The recipe is from the very sweet, talented and humble Chef Kunal Kapur, of Indian Master Chef fame. Masterchef Kunal Kapur judged a charity cook-off between a few chosen ones from the canola India Facebook contest and a couple of food bloggers. The chosen contestants came together to cook some healthy Diwali treats, in canola oil, for the underprivileged children from the NGO – Katha.

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa With an attempt to “Lighten up Diwali” for underprivileged children, Canolainfo joined hands with Masterchef India Judge Kunal Kapur to put together an inspiring afternoon and some delectable Diwali treats.

Phase I was online: inviting all food enthusiasts to upload a recipe of an interesting Diwali treat in order to participate in the “Light Up This Diwali With Canola Oil” contest sponsored by Canolainfo. Top 3 contestants were selected/invited to attend a charity cook-off, along with a few bloggers, at Banarsidas Chandiwala Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology wherein Masterchef Kunal Kapur judged the cook-off and interacted with the contestants. All the contestants were given recipes to make, in canola oil. The best out of all – Ms. Deeba Rajpal, chosen by Chef Kapur was given a hamper from Canolainfo. This was phase II of the event.

For the last and final phase, the Diwali treats made by contestants of the cook-off, was served to children of Katha, a non-profit that promotes children’s literacy. The event concluded with the children enjoying a healthy meal cooked in canola oil, put together for them along with an interactive session with Chef Kapur.

Canola, Chef Kunal Kapur, Katha

The spirit of the season took over. My first competitive cooking competition, which initially had me on the edge. Once we got talking, time really flew by. The entire experience was amazing. From weighing ingredients, working in a very very basic kitchen with just a bunch of utensils, shared space and basic ingredients, one simple dessert recipe bought us all together. It was a sense of community. That we had the timer on for 40 minutes was challenging is a small way. None of us had ever made a moong dal halwa before, let alone in oil. This was Chef Kunals recipe. It was cooked in oil versus clarified butter, then the oil was drained off. The texture was very interesting as there was a small portion of semolina in it that added texture to the halwa.

Moong dal ka halwa Otherwise a pretty straightforward recipe, the only important thing while cooking a halwa is to give it some TLC. Patience while roasting halwa is a virtue you need to develop. Hurry it up and you might not get the prefect end result! Kunal was a gem. Interacting with everyone, dropping pearls of wisdom when needed, the key was to keep your ears and eyes open! Suddenly, there was a twist. We had to incorporate any one of each the available fruits and spices in the halwa.

moong dal ka halwa On offer were cheekus, bananas, oranges and limes. The spice box offered nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, mace, cardamom etc. I opted for orange and nutmeg, and infused the sugar syrup with a whole orange, chopped up, peels bruised and grated nutmeg. It was a beautiful halwa in the end. I loved doing it. I won first place for mine too. Happiness!!

Katha, NGO, DiwaliTime really flew by. Before we knew it , we headed for Katha, an amazing and beautifully done up school. Seeing Chef Kunal interact with the bright eyed, eager enthusiastic kids was an emotional and satisfying experience. He has a gift, a special gift. Within 10 minutes he had broken ice and had all the kids literally eating out of his hands.It was time well spent!

moong dal ka halwa It was a nice launch of the festive season. With sweet cravings arising with Diwali, it wasn’t long before I hit the sugar on fast track. It’s just once in a while that I go on a sugar overdrive. Mr PAB and the lad had been on my case for moong dal halwa.

Baklava, dark chocolate nut clusters, moong dal ka halwa So that had to be made on priority. Dark chocolate nut clusters was what I made as gifts to a few folk that I like gifting over Diwali. I enjoyed doing them a lot, packing them onto pretty white platters, finished with a hand made card from the daughter. Coco was right in the middle of everything as usual!

diwali 2013, CocoThen of course, I got bitten by a terrible bug. I had some home made phyllo left over form the Daring Baker challenge {for savoury pot pies which I still have to post}. I made the pies using homemade phyllo as the base pastry. I doubled the pastry because I have wanted to make that baklava once again.

BaklavaThe first time I had made it was for the Daring Bakers two years ago. That was a beautiful challenge, and still evokes great memories. ’twas was only when I began rolling the phyllo, that I realised I was a glutton for punishment. WHY??? It was a rather long drawn exercise, with me cursing myself all along. Yet, I DID IT!BaklavaOnce you pop the layered and cut baklava into the oven, you feel like you’ve conquered the world. Once you take it out an hour later, pour the infused honey syrup all over it, you begin to smell sweet success! Just looking at the tin the next morning, and  you realise it’s been so worth every bit of heartache and hard work! You can find the baklava recipe here, though I used a slightly different phyllo pastry recipe.

Baklava, moong dal ka halwaThe dark chocolate nut clusters are easy. They are just tempered dark couverture chocolate with nuts mixed in, then dropped in spoonfuls on butter paper and allowed to set in the fridge.

Hope you have a safe and bright diwali. Eat a lot of sweets, light up some lamps, share loads, laugh lots!

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Baking | Mango Pastel de Tres Leches or Mango Three Milk Cake … Daring Bakers soak up cake!

“The great thing about cake is it doesn’t feel like work. You forget about work. Kids, adults, they all get the same look in their eye when they’re decorating cakes… that’s the magic right there.”
Duff Goldman

Mango Pastel de Tres LechesPastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake … a cake that impressed and how! Love the Daring Baker challenge this time. having missed the earlier two challenges, I went straight into it very early this month. I did think it could turn out soggy, but no! Turned out to be one of the best cakes ever!

Inma of la Galletika was our Sept. 2013 Daring Bakers’ hostess and WOW did she bring us something decadent and delicious! Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake, creamy yet airy, super moist but not soggy.. just plain delish!

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches 4My earliest memories of Tres leches goes back to a visit to Dallas in 2007. The Pastel de Tres Leches or Three Milk Cake was very popular among the Indian community there. Maybe in many ways it reminded folk of a popular Indian sweet, the milk cake. While visiting some Indian friends there, they were very excited to serve it up.

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches I was disappointed. It was sadly soggy and not worth all the fuss. Thereafter have seen references on and off to the cake, but it’s never been interesting enough to make one at home. Until now of course! Just the introductory lines were good enough for me to take on the challenge. ‘Decadent & Delicious?’ Yes please! Searched my mind for ideas, searched the net for variations. Not much out there.

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches Tres leches are simple cakes, delicious nonetheless. Me being me, had to go a step further. Fruit had to feature in here somewhere, somehow. I decided to get brave and make a layered Mango Pastel de Tres Leches or Mango Three Milk Cake. Of course I did some important pre planning, some in the head and some on the simmer!

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches The Pastel de Tres Leches is a cake that is very popular in Central and South America. It is a super moist, light, airy and super delicious sponge cake soaked in the three kinds of milk {evaporated milk, condensed milk, and heavy cream}. Tres Leches is a very light cake {especially if made without butter}, with many air bubbles in its crumb. This distinct texture is why it does not have a soggy consistency, despite being soaked in a mixture of three types of milk.

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches This recipe slightly adapted from an interview given by one of Mexico’s best Pastry Chefs, Paulina Abascal, to the magazine Revista Secretos de la Pastelería Caserais, produces a super moist yet light Tres Leches. True to the word, this was declared as one of the best cakes we’ve eaten. Light, moist and delightfully flavourful, the mango just added the oomph!

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches Mango Pastel de Tres Leches The three milk mixture is a combination of condensed milk {I always have some on hand}, evaporated milk and cream. While the west consumes tonnes of evaporated milk every year, it’s not a popular concept in India. It was time to make some. Evaporated milk is merely normal milk boiled down to reduce its water content. Simple!

Homemade evaporated milkSimple enough, and with a little pre planning, a cakewalk! Did the sponges on day 1; made the evaporated milk too. Assembled everything on day two, and we cut the cake on day 3! The cake needs a little while to soak in all the good milk, to get matured in flavours. I layered the sponge with fresh diced mango and whipped low cream {stabilized with gelatin}. You can always used canned fruit, peaches, tropical fruit bits etc.

Mango Pastel de Tres Leches Since it needed an overnight rest, I was kind of confident that the cream would set. Of course I was thrilled to see that it all came together beautifully when I demolded it the next day! It will behave even better in the winter. I’ve got to make this cake again. I did have left over milk mixture as expected, even after giving the layers a generous soaking.

Tres Leches Wholewheat Lemon Pound CakeI was tempted to make an iced milk shake out of it, but then a pound cake came to mind. Since it had been flavoured with lemon extract, I made a Tres Leches Wholewheat Lemon Pound Cake, basically soaked the warm cake in the remaining tres leches concoction. FAB!! Even that was appreciated and how! Will share the recipe soon!

Thank you Imma for offering this delicious challenge. We loved it to bits. I enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed the recent Momofuku’s Crack Pie challenge, maybe more! 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 to see what the rest of the Daring Bakers have been soaking up!

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