Showing posts with label sweet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sweet. Show all posts

Dec 5, 2016

Red Velvet Snowballs

red velvet cookies recipe vegan vegetarian eggless egg free nut free chocolate

Get festive with this recipe for buttery, chocolatey, and meltingly tender Red Velvet Snowball Cookies! An easy to make, eggless, and nut free treat that be made vegan too. The perfect addition to any holiday platter!

This stuff's the bomb-diggety!!!

Most "red velvet" recipes for cakes or cookies have some vague chocolate flavor with a slight tartness that makes them rather "meh" in my opinion. But these Red Velvet Snowball cookies have a rich, deep chocolate flavor with a tender crispness that is amazing! A bit like Oreos in flavor but made insanely better with butter. The inspiration for this cookie comes from this recipe on I tried Delish's recipe but didn't like it as the dough was so crumbly it was almost unworkable and the cookies didn't have much flavor. So, I changed the recipe by increasing the butter to one cup, increasing the cocoa powder to 1/3 cup, decreasing the cookie size to one tablespoonful of dough, and decreasing the baking temperature to 325F/175C. I also used Penzey's Natural High Fat Cocoa to give the cookies that strong, dark chocolate flavor I was looking for. The result was perfection! The dough was easy to work with, the cookies puffed up nice and pretty, and they had all the rich chocolate flavor I was looking for. Penzey's Natural High Fat Cocoa powder is their premium cocoa powder especially recommended for baking. I have to say it really makes a difference flavor-wise. You can certainly make these cookies with any cocoa powder you wish but Penzey's makes them really spectacular.

1 C butter or margarine, at room temperature
1/3 C cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1&1/2 C powdered sugar
1 TBS red food coloring
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp white vinegar
2&1/2 C  flour
1 C powdered sugar for rolling

Here's what to do:
1) In a large mixing bowl combine, butter, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt, powdered sugar, red food coloring, vanilla, and vinegar. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

2) Add flour to butter mixture 1/2C at a time and continue beating at low speed. The dough will look a bit crumbly at first but will come together after a few minutes of mixing. The dough is properly mixed when it pulls away from the bowl and the beater(s). If your dough is still crumbly after 5 minutes of mixing please see "Helpful Hints" below for a tip on how to fix it. I'd advise chilling the dough covered with cling wrap or in a sealable plastic bag in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. Chilling the dough not only makes for prettier cookies and a dough that's easier to handle but makes for better flavor also. This dough will also keep well in a sealed plastic bag or container in the freezer for up to a month.

3) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/175C. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats. (You could also roll tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and press them down lightly on the lined baking sheet if you don't have a scoop.) Place the balls of dough about 2 inches apart as they do puff up a bit.

4) Bake cookies for 20 to 22 minutes or until evenly browned on the bottom. Remove cookies from baking sheet with spatula and place on wire rack to cool. If you like, roll cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Store tightly in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes approximately 24 cookies.

5) If you like, roll cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Store tightly in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes approximately 24 cookies.

Helpful Hints:
If in step 2 the dough still remains crumbly add a teaspoon or two of vegetable oil. This usually fixes the problem. Unfortunately due to variations in humidity, varying water content in butters, and moisture content of different flours sometimes you have to adjust the amount of fats/oils to get the correct consistency of dough.

Nov 9, 2016

Pistachio, Rose, and Cardamom Snowballs

snowball cookie pistachio rose cardamom recipe vegan christmas vegetarian eggless

A classic American Christmas cookie gets a flavor makeover with rich pistachios, delicate rose, and spicy cardamom! Buttery, tender, and eggless these snowball cookies are always a hit no matter what the occasion. These beautiful treats can easily be made vegan and would be a delicious addition to any holiday platter.

snowball cookie pistachio rose cardamom recipe vegan christmas vegetarian eggless

By now you've probably figured out that rose and cardamom are two of my favorite dessert flavors. Yes, it's true! From kulfi, to kheer, to cake, to cookies - I love this flavor combination! Throw in some pistachios or coconut and I'm in heaven. So it's probably no surprise that I took my beloved snowball cookie recipe from my old 4-H cookbook and made it with pistachios instead of walnuts or pecans. And what better flavors to compliment pistachios than rose and cardamom? You don't have to make these the festive (or lurid) green that I did. You could make them brilliant pink with a few drops of red food coloring or simply leave the coloring out altogether. These cookies can easily be made vegan by substituting a good quality margarine in place of the butter.

3/4 C pistachios/pista, coarsely chopped
1 C butter, softened to room temperature (or a good quality margarine)
3/4 C powdered sugar
2 & 1/4 C flour/maida
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tsp ground cardamon (or the seeds from 8 cardamom pods ground coarsely)
2 tsp rose water
1 tsp vanilla or pistachio extract
A few drops green food coloring
Extra powdered sugar for rolling the cookies in

Here's what to do:

1) In a large mixing bowl combine together pistachios, butter, powdered sugar, flour, salt, flavorings, and green food coloring. Chill dough covered with cling film for at least 4 hours.

2) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/165C. Roll chilled dough by tablespoonful into 1 inch balls. For a little extra flavor place a few drops of rose water on your hands before rolling the dough. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silicone mats about 2 inches apart.

3) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until bottoms of cookies are browned lightly. Immediately remove with spatula and allow to cool on rack.

4) If desired, roll the cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Makes 24 cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Helpful Hints:
Add a little extra flavor by sprinkling a few drops of rose water on your hands before rolling the dough.

Sep 12, 2016

Labaniah (Saudi Milk and Pistachio Candy)

Labaniah Saudi Milk and Pistachio Candy recipe easy simple no bake

From Saudi Arabia comes this sweet treat. Indian Muslims on Hajj brought milky mithai with them on their pilgrimage to Mecca. The Saudis liked the traditional Indian sweets so much they made their own version! Humble milk powder is transformed into delicious bite sized candies with the rich flavors of saffron, cardamom, and pistachios in this easy recipe.

The best milk powder ever!
(No, Nestle did not pay me to say this nor provide any products in this recipe.)
When I first tasted labaniah as a gift from a friend who had visited Saudi Arabia I thought they tasted a lot like doodh peda or kalakand (the traditional Indian fudge like milk sweets.)  A little research proved I was right! Labaniah was most certainly inspired by milk sweets brought Indian Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. I found the original recipe for this candy on Nestle's Saudi Arabian website. I thought it was a bit too sweet so I halved the sugar. I also wanted to make it a bit luxe and a tad more Indian so I added some Kashmiri saffron. The result was delicious! So simple to make but elegant enough to serve with afternoon tea, as dessert at a posh dinner party, or for Eid al-Adha tommorrow.

1 C sugar
1/2 C water
1 tsp lemon/nimbu juice
Seeds of 5 green cardamoms/elaichi, ground finely
8 to 10 strands of saffron (optional)
1/4 C pistachio nuts, chopped finely
4 C  full cream milk powder
Extra whole pistachios for garnishing

Here's what to do:
1) Place sugar, water, lemon juice, cardamom, and saffron in a medium saucepan. Stir and bring to a simmer over medium heat low heat for 4 minutes or until it turns into a thick syrup. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

2) Add 2 C of milk powder and chopped pistachios to cooled syrup and stir until well combined.

3) Gradually add the rest of the milk powder and stir until a stiff dough forms. Add more milk powder if necessary.

4) Form the dough into small smooth balls. (I used a tablespoon sized scoop as you can see in the photo to get uniform amounts of dough.) Garnish by pressing one whole shelled pistachio into each ball. Keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freezer for up to one week.

Helpful Hints:
Labaniah tastes like doodh peda but has a slight chewy texture, not fudgy like kalakand or malai burfi. 

To make the labaniah taste even more Indian try wetting your hands with a few drops of kewra or rose water when rolling the dough.

Jun 10, 2016

Date and Crispy Rice Laddoos

dates puffed rice cereal sweet dessert ramadan easy laddoo balls recipe

"Laddoos" or "laddus" are ball shaped sweets popular in South Asia. Easy, eggless, and no bake these laddoos are a quick and delicious treat to make! Dates are simmered into a rich caramel then combined with crunchy puffed rice for a delicately crisp and divinely sweet indulgence. Perfect for Ramadan or any other holiday featuring lots of decadent goodies.

Here I've taken an old fashioned American recipe and "Desi-fied" it a little with cardamom and ghee. Variously called "humdingers" or simply "date balls" these tasty treats graced many a Thanksgiving and Christmas platter in my home when I was growing up in the US. For some reason we Americans love breakfast cereal in our sweets. Dates and rice are familiar favorites to the Desi palate so these are sure to please all around. 

Truly a crowd pleaser, this recipe was originally from my 1970's 4H cookbook. However, I've been making this for so long I know it by heart. From what I understand this recipe has been around with minor variations since the 1920's in the US. In the US you can buy 8oz bags of pitted dates that measure to about a cup which is what this recipe was written for. Pitted dates are not available in South Asia so I'd recommend using "wet pack" dates as shown in the above photo. They are fairly inexpensive and are very good quality for use in baking and cooking. I do have to pit them myself which is a bit of a sticky chore. The bag you see in the photo is the standard 500g package available here which yields about 2 cups of chopped and pitted dates. When using the 500g bag as shown in the photo I simply double the ingredients in the recipe below. If you wish to make these vegan just substitute coconut oil or a good quality vegetable margarine for the butter or ghee. These are so yummy and in less than an hour you can easily whip up about 48 to 50 laddoos for any special occasion or just an after school treat!

1/2 C butter, ghee, or coconut oil
3/4 C sugar
pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
7 - 10 green cardamoms/elaichi, seeds removed & coarsely ground (optional)
1 C dates, chopped & pitted
3 C rice crispy cereal
1 C desiccated coconut or 1/2 C powdered sugar

Here's what to do:
1) In a large heat safe mixing bowl measure out rice crispy cereal.

2) In a heavy bottomed saucepan combine sugar, dates, salt, vanilla, cardamom, and butter or ghee.

3) Over medium heat bring to simmer while stirring constantly. Allow to simmer for 3 minutes,  keep stirring constantly so the mixture does not scorch.

4) Remove cooked date mixture from heat, immediately pour over pre measured rice crispy cereal in heat proof bowl. Mix well with wooden or silicone spoon. Allow mixture to cool for about 10 minutes.

5) When mixture has cooled roll by tablespoonful into walnut sized balls. I use a tablespoon sized cookie scoop to get uniform amounts.

5) Roll the balls in desiccated coconut or powdered sugar as desired. A round cake tin or shallow bowl works well for this. Keeps well in a sealed airtight for up to two weeks. (But they only last about two days around our house because everyone eats them.)

Helpful hints:
If you wish to make these vegan just substitute coconut oil or a good quality vegetable margarine for the butter or ghee.

May 5, 2016

Mexican Polvorones (Anise & Cinnamon Cookies)

Happy Cinco de Mayo! Yes, it's Mexican independence day so it's time for a south of the border treat. "Polvo" means powder in Spanish which makes these cookies the powdery ones. Tender in texture and richly redolent with the sweetness of cinnamon and anise, these cookies are are "Que delicioso." This eggless recipe can be made vegan and are so simple to make. Try them as a elegant tea time treat or a tasty addition to any holiday platter. 

Mexican polvorones anise cinnamon cookies recipe cinco de mayo easy

Well, I didn't have a serape or even a pretty Mexican plate to style these cookies on so a lovely gaillardia blossom will have to infer all the vibrancy and festivity of Cinco de Mayo. These cookies get most of their flavor from the spices so be sure to use the best quality cinnamon and anise you can find. I prefer to use whole ground anise or anise oil as they are superior in flavor to the extract. The fat used plays an important role in both the texture and flavor of these cookies. Traditionally lard gave these cookies their powdery texture but I prefer butter, a high quality margarine, or vegetable shortening. Ground pecans or walnuts are also a traditional ingredient of polvorones depending upon region so you can add a cup of those also for extra rich cookies.

1 C butter, margarine or vegetable shortening
1/4 C powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon, ground
1/2 tsp ground anise or anise extract, or 1 drop anise oil
1 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
2 C flour/maida
1 C ground pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/4 C granulated sugar mixed with 2 tsp ground cinnamon for dredging

Here's what to do:
1) In a large mixing bowl cream together butter, powdered sugar, cinnamon, anise, vanilla, and salt.

2) Gradually mix in flour. Add pecans if using.  Dough will pull away from the mixing bowl and cling to itself when ready.

3) Chill dough wrapped in cling film or Ziploc bag for at least 3 hours or overnight,

4) When ready to bake preheat oven to 350F/180C.  Roll dough by tablespoonfuls into balls. Place on parchment or silicone mat lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart and slightly flatten with palm of hand.

5) Bake cookies for 18 to 25 minutes turning baking sheet halfway through baking time.

6)  When cookies are baked through and slightly browned on the bottom remove from oven. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from baking with spatula.  If desired roll in 1/2 C granulated sugar mixed with 2 tsp cinnamon.  Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. Makes 20 cookies.

Helpful hints:
You don't have to chill the dough. However, chilling does improve the flavor and will make the dough easier to handle and less likely to spread when baked. Less spreading and perfectly shaped dough will make for prettier cookies. You can also keep this dough frozen for up to a month until ready to use.

Apr 11, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Rooh Afza

From dear old Delhi comes the refreshing sharbat "Rooh Afza." 

What's a sharbat you ask? 
Good question! 
A sharbat is a sweet chilled drink flavored with flowers and fruit. Sharbats were popularized in the Indian Subcontinent by the Mughal empire founder Babur. Babur purportedly had ice sent from the high Himalayas to his court in Delhi expressly to prepare the cool and refreshing drink. To this day, sharbats are traditionally served at Iftar and Rosa during the Muslim celebration of Eid. 

Rooh Afza is a brilliant pink syrup which can be used in it's concentrate form to flavor ice cream, lassis, milkshakes, faloodas, sweets, or diluted with water or milk to make a traditional sharbat. Formulated in 1907 by the Unani physician Hakim Abdul Majeed in Delhi of 22 cooling constituents which include kewra, mint, orange, lemon, vetiver, white sandalwood, white waterlily, blue waterlily, watermelon, spinach, endive, coriander, carrots, loofah, purslane, stone flowers, grapes, borage, pineappple, citron, and damask rose. Founded as an Unani herb shop in old Delhi, Hamdard Laboratories continues to make Rooh Afza to this day. There are also factories in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The cooling syrup was originally intended to treat heat related illnesses and diarrhea. Rooh Afza's name means "one that enhances the spirit and lifts the soul" in Persian. You could say Rooh Afza is to Desis what Coca Cola is to Americans, an iconic brand and harbinger of nostalgia. An old newspaper ad for Rooh Afza states, "When the motor car was on it's way in and the horse and buggy on it's way out, Sharbat Rooh Afza was there." The gourmet magazine Saveur called it the "heavenly elixir" and ranked it tenth on it's annual top 100 food and drinks from around the world list in 2007.

The damask roses used in Rooh Afza are grown in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh.

What does it taste like?
The bottle I had from Delhi kind of reminded me of grenadine syrup with a damask rose accent. I got the melon, orange, and pineapple with a hint of rose and a trace of sandalwood. It's not harsh or medicinal like some floral syrups can be. I recently bought a bottle from Pakistan that I found at a local store here in Nepal and it was just mild rose and a little kewra. Very disappointing. Because the formula was never patented there are lots of copies and knockoffs on the market.

Recently I purchased this bottle of rose syrup which is not bad, it's just a simple syrup with a hint of damask rose, a little tang from citric acid, and a lot of food coloring.  What do you want for $2?

A ChaCha (uncle) & Aunty-ji enjoying Rooh Afza with Iftar in an ad for Rooh Afza.
I need a cutlery tote like ChaCha & Auntyji's too.
I'm really surprised Rooh Afza didn't take off with the foodies when it was touted in Saveur. I can just imagine this complex brilliant rose imbued syrup gracing everything from hip and trendy cocktails to gelatos, panna cottas, cheesecakes, cupcakes, or any other fashionable foodstuff. I love everything about this stuff, from the vintage graphics on the label, to it's complex yet delicate floral flavor, as well as the glorious fuchsia red color. Oh well, what do I know? I even flavor laddoos and popsicles with it. Mix it with some sriracha sauce or blend it with some kale and maybe the foodie hipsters would buy it?

Helpful hints:
Do not buy the Pakistani version of Rooh Afza, it's not the same as the Indian version. Or maybe I got a phony. As the Hamdard Laboratories' Bangladesh website for Rooh Afza states:

Yes, that is EXACTLY what it says. Just click on that link and scroll down to read it. Actually, I kind of think that should be my motto from now on!

Calmly currying on,


An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Mar 21, 2016

Sweet and Sour Mint Chutney

recipe, Indian chutney pudina mint easy Sweet and Sour Mint Chutney mint lime nimbu vegan vegetarian dip sauceI first tasted a chutney similar to this served with samosas at a roadside restaurant on our way to Kathmandu. Quite simple but a brilliant blend of flavors. The little bit of sugar in this chutney really brings out the floral notes in the mint and lime juice. This chutney is not hot at all but it's tangy, floral, and zesty flavor profile perfectly complements spicy fried Indian snacks such as pakoras, samosas, and aloo bhonda. 

I think this chutney would also suit American French fries, jalapeno poppers, and onion rings. Probably anything deep fried would work with this zingy relish. The mint I have in my garden is a peppermint, if you have spearmint or pineapple mint I'm certain the floral aspect would be even more predominant in this recipe. That would be absolutely lovely served with lamb chops or a lamb roast.

1/2 to 3/4 C fresh mint/pudina leaves, washed & destemmed
1 onion, roughly chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic/lahsun
1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/4 tsp cayenne + 1/4 tsp paprika powder)
1 TBS lime/nimbu juice
1 TBS olive oil or oil of your choice (optional)
2 tsp sugar/chini
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients to smooth paste in mixie, blender or food processor. Salt to taste and serve. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Helpful Hints:
I put a tablespoonful of olive oil in this chutney because I find it really improves what I call the "mouth feel."  This is not something Desis would do. I find it softens the acid tang just a bit while carrying the flavors of the mint, garlic, and onion. You can certainly use any oil you like or omit it entirely.

The head chef at our friendly neighborhood diner here in Nepal is cooking up somethin' good!

Mar 14, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Tamarind

Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a leguminous tree native to tropical Africa. It has long been cultivated on the Indian Subcontinent for it's edible, pod-like fruits. The name tamarind is derived from the Arabic words "tamar hindhi," meaning "Indian date."

The tamarind tree thrives in nearly all types of soil, is highly drought resistant, and tolerates full sun as well as wind borne salt in coastal locations. The tamarind's fruit is an indehiscent legume about 5 to 6 inches long and is often called a pod. The fleshy reddish brown pulp around the shiny dark seeds is the edible part.

The tamarind tree has lovely  inconspicuous flowers borne in racemes with each blossom only about one inch across.

This is a langur feasting upon tamarind pods in a tamarind tree. Langurs are large enough to look you in the eye and are normally quite calm in comparison to macaques.
Wildlife love to eat tamarind fruits also. A mature tamarind tree can produce as much as 175kg/386lbs of fruit yearly. The fruit is high in B vitamins, tartaric acid, sugar, and calcium.

Dried tamarind pods sold in boxes.

Dried tamarind fruits can be stored indefinitely. To extract the pulp requires all sorts of soaking, maceration, and sieving which is why Bibi buys these:

Smith & Jones tamarind paste from Mumbai.
Asian Gate tamarind concentrate from Bangkok.
No tedious sieving out fibrous husks, maceration, and what not for Bibi! Instant gratification and maximum tamarind flavor looks like this:

A glob of tamarind paste basking in the Himalayan sunset.
Despite it's scatological appearance tamarind paste tastes like a handful of raisins whizzed through the mixie with a drop or two of vinegar. I've heard the flavor described as floral but all I get is sour raisins or sultanas. Westerners are probably familiar with tamarind's sweet and sour flavor in Worcestershire sauce.

Tamarind is used in chutneys, dals, curries, snacks, drinks, and sweets on the Indian Subcontinent. Tamarind also contains pectin so it can also be used as a thickener in jams and jellies too. I have been told by Indian chefs that tamarind's sweet and tangy flavor is more "authentic" in Desi dishes than vinegar or lemon juice. I like to use tamarind in my cooking not only for it's tang and pucker but also for the rich dark brown hue it imparts.

A good substitute for tamarind paste in a dish would be 1 TBS raisins plus 3-4 drops vinegar per every 1 TBS tamarind paste. I've seen Kashmiri cooks use equal amounts of pounded dates in place of tamarind paste to get a similar flavor also.

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