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 | 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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