“Nose, nose, jolly red nose,
Who gave thee this jolly red nose?†
Nutmegs and ginger, cinnamon and cloves,
And they gave me this jolly red nose”
I’m on a GINGER high, or call it a roll, but my days are full of ginger. It’s a flavour, with sharpness, that I’ve come to love, and am surprised that the kids have taken to it so willingly too. Fresh ginger is far more pronounced in its gingery taste, and since it’s the season for fresh, wonderful young ginger root here, I’m taking full advantage of it!

Ginger has proven medicinal value, and I have been using it as a base for tea, with Indian basil/tulsi, for my flu ridden husband. Have also made a ginger-honey concoction for the family to heal the cough. I’ve really taken a long shot at it of late, and am very much enjoying using it. Winter means all hearty, spicy and full of warm wholesome flavour. This Ginger cake from David Lebovitz promises all this and much more. It satisfies a deep craving for that something which winter demands, as do these cookies I found at BHG Holiday Cookies.

I love the choice of names that Levobitz’s books have. Something entirely charming about them… and different. ‘Room for Dessert, ‘ Sweet Life in Paris, ‘The Perfect Scoop’, ‘Ripe for Dessert’ … This lovely cake recipe from his first book “Room for Dessert” can be found throughout the blogs and on Epicurious.
The author recommends serving it with stewed or poached plums and whipped cream in “Room for Dessert“, but it’s deliciously moist and flavoursome on it’s own and stores well for a few days. Must admit that a dollop of cream, with some candied orange and ginger ups the luxury on this cake!

Fresh Ginger Cake
adapted from recipe by David Lebovitz from “Room for Dessert”

“This is the most often requested recipe in my repertoire, and I’ve passed it on to many, many people. It appears so often on Bay Area menus (sometimes called Dave’s ginger cake, which, I admit, amuses and flatters me) that I sometimes think I’m responsible for too much of a good thing. Then I order it, taste it, and decide not to worry: This simple cake is wonderful…”

4 ounces fresh ginger
1/2 cup mild molasses (or 1 cup molasses, and omit the honey)
1/2 cup honey (I used honey because I had just 1/2 a cup of molasses)
1 cup sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, preferably peanut
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves ( I ground whole cloves with a little sugar & sifted them with the flour)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup water
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 eggs, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a 9 by 3-inch round cake pan or a 9 1/2 inch spring form pan with a circle of parchment paper.

Peel, slice, and chop the ginger very fine with a knife (I used my microplaner). Mix together the molasses, honey, sugar, and oil. In another bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper.
Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan, stir in the baking soda, and then mix the hot water into the molasses mixture. Stir in the ginger.
Gradually whisk the dry ingredients into the batter. Add the eggs, and continue mixing until everything is thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan and bake for about 1 hour, until the top of the cake springs back lightly when pressed or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns too quickly before the cake is done, drape a piece of foil over it and continue baking.

Cool the cake for at least 30 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen it from the pan. Remove the cake from the pan and peel off the parchment paper.

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Onto the ginger cookies for which I used fresh minced ginger instead of ginger powder, and gur / jaggery instead of molasses. These cookies are especially for my sweet friend Susan @ Food Blogga for her Eat Christmas Cookies, Season 3 event. Do stop by here to see the round-up which is updated as the cookies come in..
Jaggery or “Gur” or whole sugar is a pure, wholesome, traditional, unrefined, whole sugar. It contains the natural goodness of minerals and vitamins inherently present in sugarcane juice and this crowns it as one of the most wholesome and healthy sugars in the world. In Mexico and South America, it is also known as panela.

Chocolate Gingerbread Drops
Adapted from BHG Holiday Cookies
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup gur/jaggery (or molasses)
1 tbsp honey (omit if using molasses)
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried tart red cherries
2/3 cup bittersweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 190C. In large mixing bowl beat butter, brown sugar, baking soda, ginger, allspice, and salt; beat until combined. Beat in jaggery, honey and egg. Beat in as much flour as you can with mixer; stir in any remaining flour with wooden spoon. Stir in cherries and chocolate.
Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake about 8 – 10 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Makes 36 cookies.

The Christmas season is upon us and it is time to think about holiday baking. What better time to check out Cookie Cutters from Ann Clark Ltd.? Ann Clark would like to offer readers of Passionate About Baking a 10% discount at their retail site,

Merry Christmas…and happy baking!

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“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure…”
William Feather

What spells Fall? Longer nights and shorter days. Leaves just about beginning to change colour. More serious food choices coming forth.

Hola… September’s here, and with it Fall / Autumn in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere. Adios to the lightness that spelt summer. Stone fruits have been pipped by pip fruits, and the seasons first apples and pears are beginning to creep in. We’ve sadly said goodbye to the last of the stone fruits, plums were the last to go. There was a time that my heart sank when the mango season ended. That was 2 years ago…

Now, thankfully, with fruit having established a rather significant and central role in my baking, I actually look forward to a change in season. New boundaries to be crossed, new fruit to be experimented with… so much to look forward to. In addition, being on Twitter throws up endless banter, involved discussions, much more creativity & a new meeting ground.

When Ilva of Lucullian Delights asked if I was OK to be a judge on Paper Chef as a one off, I said YES! Didn’t know what it was all about, but heck, you don’t get called to be a judge everyday. LOL! If you are trying to figure out what I’m talking about, check my post here, and also check out the Paper Chef blog here. It’s a great creative culinary contest and is meant to be fun. Once I chose my ingredients, I felt very inspired to try something my self, so what if I can’t judge myself he he!

As judge, I got to choose 3 regular ingredients and a 4th one, which could be exotic, outlandish or theme based, whatever. I would have loved to go with outlandish, but with fall just stepping in, I chose to go with a theme. I thought FALL! Think fall, think deep serious cooking again. Warm and richer flavours, spicy aromas, hearty food, filled plates. Cinnamon, ginger, pumpkin, pie spices, roasts, steamy coffee, soups…

Before I take you to my recipe, I first need to pick a WINNER from the delicious entries our Paper Chef #44 got in this month. Judging is never an easy task, & this was no exception. I am always amazed at the creativity that a handful of ingredients can draw out of food bloggers. My ingredients of choice were Ricotta, Ginger, Dark Chocolate…& any other fourth item that spelt Fall! The entries for this episode of Paper Chef are inventive, creative and exciting. You can see in the round-up here. Makes one think out of the box… immense creativity and endless possibilities… Was tough to choose between so many favourites that were calling my name, each one of them very very special. I had to make the difficult choice, and eventually picked Ginger, Ricotta & Pumpkin Wontons from Ri @ Musings RI, a savoury entry to this round of PC. Creative, enticing & an early call to fall with roasted pumpkin making the 4th ingredient. Ri roasted the pumpkins herself, and even used the pumpkin seeds. Chocolate entered the dish by way of an intriguing chocolate-balsamic dipping sauce. As Ilva mentioned on her round-up, these are certainly ‘incredible‘. A creative & delicious result !! Congratulations Ri, I hand this round of Paper Chef to you. Well done indeed. Thank you Ilva, for giving me this rare opportunity to play judge. I enjoyed it immensely; it’s been a huge learning experience. Thank you also to all the wonderful bloggers who participated in Paper Chef #44, and played with my ingredients of choice. I am completely taken in by your creativity.
Even though I couldn’t be judged, I was truly inspired. I love the idea of Ready Steady Cook, Iron Chef etc, & the Paper Chef event was certainly fun. Went along this preparation without much prior thought, and thankfully the dessert worked out well. The kids lapped it up happily, & were ready for seconds (which they didn’t get!). The hub loved it too, though he felt it was tad heavy. I think hub has yet to make the transition from fresh & light summer, to earthy, deep autumn. One thing I might change the next time is reduce the ricotta slightly (bring it down to about 250gms), and whip the cream separately before I fold it in. Pumpkin puree with pie spice instead of chocolate might work some magic in here too, who knows?
Dark Chocolate, Ricotta & Ginger Tartlets with Poached Pears
My recipe with Paper Chef #44 ingredients
Biscuit Base
150gm digestive biscuits
1/4 cup clarified butter (or softened butter)
1/8 cup crystallised ginger
Run the biscuits & ginger in the food processor till like fine meal. Add the clarified butter & whiz again till it starts clumping.
Line some dessert rings or/and squares with parchment paper, & place on a tray lined with parchment paper.
Put about 1/8 cup of biscuit crumb mix into each, divided equally among the 8 rings, & press down to flatten into a base. I used a pestle.
Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for 10 minutes. take out & cool on tray .

Ricotta chocolate filling
350-300 gms ricotta (I made mine out of 1.5 litres of whole milk/recipe here); drain excess whey for 30minutes
100gms dark chocolate at room temperature
6-8 slices of crystallised ginger
200ml low fat cream
1-2 tbsps of vanilla sugar if required

Blend the warm ricotta, ginger & dark chocolate in the processor till thick & mousse like. The warmth from the ricotta should melt the chocolate.
Add the cream and whisk again. Taste and adjust sugar if required. I added 1 tbsp of sugar. Blend briefly. You should get a little more than 2 cups of mixture.
Pour over the cooled biscuit bases, with the rings/squares still in place. Chill for 4-5 hours. Serve with chilled poached pears, drizzled with syrup.

Poached Pears in Ginger/Vanilla syrup
3 small firm, ripe pears, cored cut into 6 slices each
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/2 vanilla bean
1″ piece crushed ginger
Put all the ingredients in a heavy bottom pan & simmer for 15-20 minutes till pears are tender. Cool a bit. Remove pears to platter lined with kitchen towels to drain & cool completely. Chill until needed.
Reduce the syrup on medium heat until it is a thick & syrupy liquid. Reserve to spoon over tartlets just before serving. Can be used as an ice-cream sauce etc.

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“I think the inner person is the most important. . . . I would like to see an invention that keeps the mind alert. That’s what is important.”
Julia Child

The release of Julie & Julia has led to a Julia Child wave among blogs, food blogs in particular. Elle’s New England Kitchen & Food Blogga featured some beautiful blog posts on the film. Do head for their blogs as Elle & Susan have some sweet sound bites on the film. The film’s official blog, Julie & Julia also is well worth a visit. The other day I saw a beautiful Cherry clafoutis that Val posted @ More Than Burnt Toast. It was for an event that Helene @ Le Cusine de Helene had tweeted out for a Julia Child MAFTC challenge. MAFTC?Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, of course! I was dashed I had missed it. But Helene, being the sweetheart that she is, retweeted it to me, & here I am! Thank you Helene! We ♥ challenges like this. FUN!! Vive la TWITTER!!
(Don’t you just ♥ it?) Here are a couple of tweets about the MAFTC as i got them…
  • RT Announcing Mastering the Art of French Cooking Challenge. Pick any recipe and blog, tweet about it nx Friday. Who’s in???
  • @CulinaryMelange @cardamomaddict @kbgerth @ABCcooking @vindee @kitchenpuppies @Dragonskitchen @mollierosev are you in for MTAFC Friday?
Julia Child (born Julia Carolyn McWilliams August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004) was an American chef, author and television personality, who introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream, through her many cookbooks and television programs. Her most famous works are the 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the television series The French Chef.
In August 2002, Julie Powell started documenting online her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she later began reworking that blog, The Julie/Julia Project, into a book. In March 2008, director-screenwriter Nora Ephron began filming Julie & Julia, adapted from Powell’s memoir, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. The paperback was retitled Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (Back Bay Books, 2006). Ephron’s film, the first major motion picture based on a blog, is scheduled for August 7, 2009 release. Meryl Streep stars as Julia Child and Amy Adams portrays Julie Powell.

Now onto the food bit … ie clafoutis. Clafoutis, sometimes in Anglophone countries spelled clafouti, is a custard-like baked French dessert that is typically made by baking fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a batter, somewhat similar to pancake batter, in a baking dish. Originally from Limousin, the dish’s name comes from Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning “to fill up” (implied: “the batter with cherries”). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century.

As a matter of strange coincidence, I was to take a peep again into a charming blog, Luna Cafe, around this time. It’s a wonderful place, full of exciting ideas, and flavours that are so ‘me’. It’s funny, but each post of SMS Bradleys‘ has flavours and choices I would inherently turn to. This time was no exception. She posted a Fresh Apricot Ginger Peasant Cake & my heart skipped a beat. Glory be thy name! It was a rather intriguing take on the clafoutis, in her words, “Drawing inspiration from Julia Child who describes this classic dessert beautifully, along with several variations, in the inestimable, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. My version is on the other end of the spectrum. It contains no eggs and is cake-like (not a pancake, not a custard) with a decidedly chewy texture, which everyone who tastes it loves. I don’t recall where I stumbled on the unusual formula here, but I have not encountered it anywhere since.”

Well said… This cake is utterly simple to make, tastes as good as the fruit you put in, is eggless, yet cake like. It has this wonderfully chewy texture, with the fruit & batter combining to create magic. It’s lovely served warm, light enough for an afternoon tea, but is as good served chilled with some unsweetened cream, or even ice-cream. It tasted good with the Roasted Peach & Plum Ice-cream I had just made. The ice-cream, which is low fat & eggless, complimented the peasant cake beautifully. A dusting of almond slivers, a few snips of homemade candied ginger made it an even happier combination.Perfect for summer … light & endearing, the cakes are good for breakfast too. Chilling these enhanced the flavour of the ginger within, & resulted in instant crystallised ginger addiction in the kids! I have never seen them take to ginger so well! The cake is best made with good quality apricots, but I did pretty well with fresh peaches. Other fruit suggestions include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or sour cherries.

To quote SMS Bradley, Apricots release their full depth of flavor only when cooked, thus I am always looking for ways to treat them to a little heat. They are the perfect fruit for this simple cake, but blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, or sour cherries will also work beautifully.FRESH PEACH GINGER PEASANT CAKES
as adapted from this recipe at Luna Cafe
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 peaches, halved, seeds removed
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Cake Batter
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk, plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Powdered sugar in a shaker
Slivered almonds (optional)


  • Butter a 10½-inch diameter ceramic pie plate with a 5-6 cup capacity, or 6-8 small shallow individual tart pans. (Another shape of shallow baking dish with the same capacity will also work.) You may need to use a brush to lightly coat the edges of the pie plate with butter. Reserve.
  • Halve the peaches, pit, & roughly chop for small tart pans, or quarter (bigger pieces for 1 large dish. Put these in a big bowl with the vanilla sugar,candied ginger, vanilla extract and lime juice. Gently combine the peaches with the other ingredients. Reserve.

To prepare the cake batter:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 3/4 cup vanilla sugar, and the baking powder. With a wooden spoon or whisk, beat in the milk & vanilla extract to produce a smooth batter. Don’t over beat. However, the batter should not have too many lumps either. Pour the batter into the center of the buttered dish. It will spread out on its own.
  • Place a spoonful of peaches, and some of their remaining liquid evenly over the batter, leaving a 1/4–inch open border of batter around the outside edges. I also did a few with spooning the fruit in first & the batter over. The first was prettier, but both dramatic! For a single large gratin dish, place all the fruit on top of the batter, & leave a 3/4″ border. (this will allow the batter to rise dramatically at the edges).
  • Place on a rack in the upper third of a preheated 190°C oven. Set an edged baking sheet on the rack below to catch any overflow.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes (a little less for smaller cakes), or until the sides are fully puffed, the center is slightly puffed, and the top is golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cook for 15 minutes before cutting / serving. To serve, dust with powdered sugar and cut into wedges for 1 large pie, or as is for smaller cakes.
  • Serves 4-6

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