Showing posts with label almonds. Show all posts
Showing posts with label almonds. Show all posts

Dec 10, 2018

Zimtsterne (Cinnamon Stars)


A German and Swiss holiday staple, this cookie has it all: It's spicy, it's chewy, and it's enticingly covered with sweet frosting. Zimtsterne or cinnamon stars are traditionally made in the shape of a six-pointed star, but if you only have a cutter with five points, that's okay too!


This recipe is adapted from my good friend Cyn's blog, Home Cyn Home. My longtime friend Cyn is a Swiss national living in Mumbai with her Indian husband, adorable daughter Ishita, cute cat Mittens, and dedicated dog Jasmine. Cyn celebrates Christmas by making traditional Swiss treats and lots of fun Christmas crafts. She is also a professional artist and her designs are available on Society6, Redbubble, and Colorpur. Be sure to visit her blog for more easy recipes and craft projects or a hilarious rant on the perils and pitfalls of expat life in India.

Bibi's Kandy-Kolored Raspberry-Flake Streamline Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer (My apologies to Tom Wolfe)
So when I first saw this recipe for I thought, "Egg whites and royal icing, hmm, sounds fiddly." But then I picked up this KitchenAid stand mixer while last passing through Delhi and that's what made this recipe a snap! I had my mom's 70's harvest gold and my own late 80's hunter green KitchenAid mixer in California, but did not bring them to Nepal due to voltage issues. (No, this is not an ad for KitchenAid) That whisk beater makes short work of whipping egg whites.! If you don't have a stand mixer a handheld electric mixer will do, but possibly take a few minutes longer. I ground the almonds finely in seconds in my Indian-style mixie.

See that glorious pile of local oranges on the Tarkariwala's cart?
Right now oranges are in season so I used a little orange zest and orange juice to make these cookies halal. Kirsch is the traditional flavoring but I'll bet Gran Marnier would be delicious also. Orange and cinnamon are such a great pairing. Cyn advises putting the royal icing on just after baking rather than before or during as is traditional. I agree as the pure white icing tends to discolor if baked, especially if you have a convection style oven. Be sure not to overbake as the Zimtsternen are meant to be a bit chewy and will taste burnt even if they're just baked to medium brown. Overall, this recipe is a keeper! I love this cookie's festive star shape and snow-like topping.The delightfully chewy, nutty texture and spicy cinnamon flavor are delightfully different. They really are easy to make - especially if you make the dough in advance and then bake and frost them the next day. I love'em! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
3 egg whites
1 pinch of salt
1 C powdered sugar
2 TBS cinnamon powder
1 TBS of orange juice (or Kirsch)
1 tsp orange zest (optional)
4 &1/2 C or 500g ground almonds (with skin)
extra ground almonds as needed
extra powdered sugar for rolling out dough
gold glitter sprinkles for decorating (optional)
Royal Icing:
1 egg white
1 C powdered sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 tsp orange juice

Here's what to do:
1) In a large mixing bowl beat the egg whites and salt until they form stiff peaks. (I use the whisk beater for this step.)


2) Add the powdered sugar to the beaten egg whites and fold until you have a smooth paste. (I switch to the regular beater from the whisk for this step.)


3) Mix in the ground almonds, cinnamon, orange juice (or kirsch) and orange zest and combine as evenly as possible. At this point, you will have a sticky dough. Add some extra ground almonds gradually until the dough sticks to itself but remains soft yet pliable.


4) Wrap the dough in cling film and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours to allow the cinnamon flavor to develop and the almonds to soak up the moisture. This dough can also be frozen for several weeks before use.


5) When ready to bake make a small batch of royal icing* (directions below) and preheat oven to 180C/350F. Place a large piece of waxed paper on a flat surface and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Place the chilled dough on the waxed paper and powdered sugar, lightly sprinkle with more confectioners' sugar and press or roll out to 1/3-inch thick.


6) Using a cookie cutter dipped in water, cut into 2-inch star shapes. Reroll and cut any scraps. Place on baking sheet lined with parchment or a silicone mat. Bake the cookies in the center of the oven for about 10-15  minutes (they should just start to turn brown on the edges). Do not overbake!


7) Spread the royal icing* on the cookies as soon as you take them out of the oven. Ideally, the cookies should still be a bit hot. Sprinkle with gold colored sugar before icing sets if desired. Allow the cookies to cool on a rack. When completely cooled store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 weeks. Zimtsternen taste best if allowed to stand for 24 hours.

*Royal Icing:
1) Place egg white, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoonful of orange juice in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or beaters. Beat until frothy.

2) Add the powdered sugar and beat on low speed until well blended. Increase the speed to medium-low and beat until the mixture is stiff and shiny, usually about 3 to 5 minutes. This icing hardens quickly, so be sure to cover it with plastic wrap until you're ready to use it. Gently press the plastic wrap into the surface of the icing to prevent a crust from forming.

Helpful Hints:


Grind almonds quickly and easily in your Indian-style mixie. I did mine in two 250g batches and it took only seconds!

Mar 11, 2018

Garam Masala Spiced Almonds

indian, garam masala, almonds, easy, recipe, simple, spicy, roasted, vegan,

Garam Masala Spiced Almonds are the perfect healthy snack with a kick. The bold flavors of traditional Indian spices make these nuts addictively delicious!


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Typically when you pay a casual visit to a household in India or Nepal you are served a warm drink, something salty, and something sweet. The drink is usually sweet, milky chai (tea) or sweetened "milk coffee." The salty item can be anything from readymade chaat mixes to potato chips. The sweets are usually biscuits or cake. (I've even been served some unique combinations such as cake and potato chips.) Garam Masala Spiced Almonds are something I started making to serve guests before we could buy readymade chaat mixes (like Haldirams) in packets here in Nepal. It seemed a natural choice as almonds are a favorite treat in my husband's native Kashmir. I'm not sure where I originally found this recipe but I suspect it may have been from the legendary Canadian Chef Vikram Vij.

indian, garam masala, almonds, easy, recipe, simple, spicy, roasted, vegan,
Parsi-Style Garam Masala
Over the years I've added and altered the recipe to our tastes. Instead of cayenne, I use Kashmiri mirch for a richer chili kick. Lime juice adds a tart zing in place of the sweeter amchur/mango powder sometimes. Adding asafoetida/hing or garlic powder was entirely my idea to add an umami boost to the mix. You may certainly vary the flavor by using different regional versions of garam masala blends. You'll find recipes for Garam MasalaParsi Garam Masala, Kashmiri Garam Masala, Nepali Garam Masala, and Mughlai Garam Masala on this blog. The oil you choose to make this recipe with can change the flavor a great deal too. Using coconut or sesame oil adds a rich, traditional note while flavorless oils like canola and sunflower oils add none. You can even use raw cashews in this recipe too but be sure to roast them separately from almonds as they cook faster. I hope you'll love this recipe as much as my family does! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 TBS garam masala
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch or cayenne powder
1 tsp mango powder/amchur or 2 tsp lime/lemon juice
1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing or garlic powder (optional)
 2 TBS vegetable oil of choice oil
 3 C raw almonds or cashews
2-3 tsp salt to taste 

Here's what to do:
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

indian, garam masala, almonds, easy, recipe, simple, spicy, roasted, vegan,

2) In a large bowl, combine spices, and oil. Add almonds or cashews and stir until well coated. Pour coated nuts onto a baking sheet and spread out evenly over the pan.

indian, garam masala, almonds, easy, recipe, simple, spicy, roasted, vegan,

3) Bake for 6-8 minutes. Stir with a spatula or spoon, return to oven and bake an additional 6 minutes. Be careful not to burn or scorch the nuts- if the almonds start to turn dark brown around the edges they are burnt. Remember that the almonds will continue cooking for a few minutes after you remove them from the oven.
indian, garam masala, almonds, easy, recipe, simple, spicy, roasted, vegan,

4) Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving. Store in an air-tight container for up to one month in a cool, dry place.


Helpful Hints: 
If after roasting the nuts are not salted enough for your taste simply sprinkle additional salt and stir them with a spatula or shake them in a jar.

If you are making this recipe with raw cashews be sure to shorten the cooking times by 4-5 minutes.

Jun 1, 2017

Mexican Chocolate Snowballs

mexican chocolate snowballs, mexican, chocolate, cookies, vegan, egg free, eggless, cinnamon, chili, almonds, easy, recipe, vegetarian,

These Mexican chocolate snowballs are a spicy twist on an old favorite with almonds, chocolate, cinnamon, and a pinch of chili powder. Buttery, delicately spiced, and rich with chocolate flavor this egg free recipe can easily be made vegan too. A simple to make treat to serve on Cinco de Mayo or any holiday! 

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I love the way the Mexicans spice their chocolate with a little cinnamon and a hint of chili. So when I saw this recipe on Allrecipes a few weeks ago I had to make it. It was absolutely delicious! I did make a few changes though. The original recipe called for ancho chili powder, a little less sugar, and dark chocolate chips. I didn't have ancho chili powder so I used degi mirch or cayenne powder. Ancho chili powder has a bit less heat than cayenne and a slight fruity flavor, but the chili flavor in these cookies is so subtle I didn't find it made a difference. If you can't handle any sort of chili heat I'd substitute paprika for the chili powder or simply leave it out. I bumped the sugar up to the amount I use in all my snowball cookies. Dark chocolate chips were recommended for use in this recipe. Unfortunately, I did not have dark chocolate chips so I used milk chocolate chips. Although these cookies were delicious with the milk chocolate and regular cocoa powder I used, I think using dark chocolate chips and dark cocoa powder would make them even more delicious! I think the next time I make these I'll grind up a dark chocolate bar and use it in place of the chocolate chips and cocoa powder. To make this recipe vegan-friendly just substitute a good quality vegetable margarine or shortening for he butter. Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 C butter, softened (use margarine or vegetable shortening to make these vegan)
3⁄4 C powdered sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 C unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1⁄4 tsp cayenne powder/degi mirch or Kashmiri mirch (for less heat use paprika)
1⁄4 tsp salt
2 C all-purpose flour
2⁄3 C toasted almonds, finely chopped (optional)
1⁄3 cup dark chocolate chips
To roll cookies in after baking: 
1/2C powdered sugar
1 TBS cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon

Here's what to do:
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1) In a large mixing bowl beat together butter,  powdered sugar, vanilla,  cocoa powder,  cinnamon, chili powder, and salt until creamy and well combined.

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2) Add flour, almonds and chocolate chips to butter mixture. Continue to mix. Dough will be crumbly at first but after about 2 minutes it should pull together and stick to itself. When dough forms a large ball and sticks to itself it's ready. Chill dough covered with cling film in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.

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3) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/165C. Form tablespoonfuls of dough into balls. Place balls of dough on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats. Bake cookies for about 18-25 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottom being careful not to over bake. Cookies will harden as they cool.
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4) In a large shallow bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon until combined.

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5) Cool cookies about 5-7 minutes then roll in sugar mixture while still warm. Cool completely on wire rack then roll cookies in sugar mixture again if desired. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

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Helpful Hints: 
Chilling the dough is important as it allows the flavors of the chocolate and spices to develop as well as making the cookies easier to shape.

Keeping the dough wrapped in in a plastic bag or cling film while chilling prevents it from drying out and absorbing other flavors from the fridge.

Substitute a good quality margarine or vegetable shortening for the butter to make these cookies vegan.

Aug 3, 2016

Tips & Tools: How to Blanch Almonds

almond simple way blanching skinned raw

Blanched almonds are simply raw almonds with their skin removed. The smooth texture of blanched or skinless almonds are often called for in many Mughlai recipes as well as some fancy Indian sweets and desserts. I've never seen pre blanched almonds for sale in India or Nepal so I've learned to prepare them myself. In as little as ten minutes you can easily blanch your own almonds!


Traditionally I've seen almonds soaked for hours in water or overnight to remove their skins in India. Often this results in mushy or slimy almonds. With the simple and quick technique of blanching by immersing in hot then cold water the almonds retain their firm texture. Be sure to use only raw almonds and the freshest you can find. 

Ingredients:
2 C raw almonds
2-3 C water (or just enough water to cover the amount of almonds you wish to blanch)
saucepan
strainer

Here's what to do:
1) Bring a small pot of water to boil and remove from heat. Place raw almonds in heated water and allow to steep for 2 minutes.

2) Drain the hot water from the almonds using a sieve or colander. Rinse the almonds with cool water.


3) The almonds' skins should be loosened and will easily slide off when squeezed. Be careful if you pinch too hard the almond will go flying across the room. This is the most time consuming part of blanching almonds.
The blanched almonds are on the left and their removed velvety russet jackets are on the right.
4) Depending on what you're using the blanched almonds for you may wish to leave them to dry. I usually place them on a baking sheet for a day to dry if need be. Store in an airtight container for up to two weeks when dried.


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