Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chocolate Lava Cake.. A Valentine's Day Indulgence

It is Valentine's Day, the season of love. I wanted to make it special for my valentine. My husband is a chocolate lover. Of late, he had been asking me to try at baking something with chocolate (Not that he is not fond of all my "healthy" baking, but a good, decadent chocolate cake takes him back to the days in his hometown Kannur and its famous bakeries). So, what better way to make my Valentine happy than bake him one!  I decided to go all out and make this wonderful mini cake which is full of, hold on, gooey chocolate oozing out!

And good news! My husband loved it. So much so that we both almost got drunk on chocolate, it was so deadly good! What makes this one for keeps is that it uses very few ingredients that we usually have in our fridge and bakes in no time! Here is the recipe, all you chocolate lovers.

This recipe adapted from ShowMeTheCurry (Hetal and Anuja)

Serves - 3 - 4
Preparation Time - 15 minutes
Baking Time - 13 - 18 minutes

4 Oz. (113 gms) of semi-sweet baking chocolate, cut into squares (I used Ghirardelli's)
1 Tbsps of Cocoa Powder
4 oz (113 gms, 1 stick, half cup or 8 tbsps) of butter, cut into cubes, room temperature
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/3 cup of granulated sugar
2 Tbsp of powdered sugar
2 large eggs
!/2 Tsp of Vanilla Essence

Note - The white bowls in the picture are ramekins. These are oven-safe bowls ideal for making lava cakes. Alternately, lava cakes can be made in muffin pans also. Then we would have to reduce the baking time.
  • Pre-heat oven to 350 F (180 C)
  • Grease the ramekins with some butter and line the bottom and sides with either some cocoa powder or powdered sugar

  • On a double boiler, melt the chocolate and butter (A double boiler is made by placing a heatproof bowl such as a thick pyrex glass bowl or a steel/aluminium bowl over a saucepan containing boiling water, placed on medium-low heat; alternately this can be done in the microwave but we need to take care not to burn the chocolate)
  •  In a large enough bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar and eggs until the batter turns fluffy and pale yellow. Now, mix in the vanilla essence
  • Pour some of the melted chocolate-butter and stir (at first we only add a little to avoid cooking the eggs!)
  • Now pour the rest of the melted chocolate-butter and mix the batter well
  • Finally, add the flour and gently mix to combine everything
  • Pour into your ramekins about 1/2 of the way up

  • Bake for anywhere from 15 to 18 minutes, until the sides are done but the center still looks wet. If we want the center runny, then we need to take them out at about15 minutes.
Just out of the oven

Served with powdered sugar

Here are a few pics to show how they look taken out of the oven at different times-

Runny center; taken out at 15 minutes

A little less gooey center; taken out at 18 minutes


Serve this hot with a generous sprinkling of powdered sugar and a dollop of vanilla ice-cream. And enjoy the feeling of melting chocolate in your mouth

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Voila! Creme Caramel!!

I believe creme caramel is the easiest, quickest and the most perfect dessert ever to have been invented. A big thank you to the French! This is my go-to recipe when we have a dinner get-together because it is an easily liked dessert. The smooth caramel is a perfect foil for the custard. So without much ado, I present to you - Creme Caramel!!

This recipe customized from Titli Nihaan's creme caramel

Preparation Time - 30 minutes
Baking Time - 50 - 55 minutes
Serves 6


For caramel
Sugar - 1 cup
Water - 4 Tbsps

For the Creme (custard)
Whole milk - 3 cups
Eggs - 4 large
Vanila essence - 1 Tsp
Sugar - 2/3 cups

The baking pan used must be immersed in hot water before popping into the oven. So we will need - 9" round pan for the custard and a 13" X 9" rectangular pan for the water bath.


Making caramel

A few noteworthy points-
  • Its better to use stainless steel saucepan. Non-stick did not work for me.
  • Use filtered water
  • Stand a bit away from furnace. Melting sugar is not the most pleasant thing to have on your bare skin. It is scalding hot!
  • Caramel making needs baby-sitting. It can go from caramel to burnt caramel in a few seconds. So do keep a constant watch (Checking laundry, having coffee while the sugar melts, going for a sneak peak at your facebook page, non of that.. na-ah!.. This comes from my bitter experiences.. sob!)
  • I have moved away from the conventional method, which says to 'never stir' and 'let sugar slowly melt on low heat'. Somehow these methods did not work for me (maybe because my saucepan was not wide enough, I really don't know!). On the contrary, I did stir and I did make it on high heat and it came out just fine. This idea was from here -
Well, here goes - Add sugar and water and lightly stir till sugar is wet. On medium-high heat, gently stir till sugar dissolves (about 10 minutes; you don't need to constantly stir, instead we can also swirl the pan on the heat).

If sugar is hardening on the sides of pan, just add droplets of water and gently scrape it back into the syrup. Once sugar is dissolved, turn heat to high, cover pan and cook for about 4 more minutes. When syrup starts to boil and bubble, just swirl the pan from time to time. 

In about 4 minutes, the syrup will stop bubbling and start changing colour to light brown. Remove from heat and quickly pour into baking pan. Swirl pan to spread caramel evenly before it hardens. 

Note - Caramel still cooks when removed from heat, so remove when it is light brown, otherwise it can get burnt

Making Creme (custard)

For the water bath, boil enough water to half-fill a 13 X 9 pan. Pre-heat oven to 320 F (160 C).

Heat milk and vanilla till it comes to boil. Simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Pour in 1/4 of the milk and whisk. Then pour rest of the milk while constantly stirring.  Ok, custard is done!

Pour custard into the round pan with caramel. Place round pan into the larger rectangular pan and fill the rectangular pan with boiling water until it comes half-way up the round pan. Bake for about 50 - 55 minutes. We know its done when the top is firm but if you shake the pan the pudding will wobble.

Cool for about 25 - 30 minutes before refrigerating for at-least 2 hours (maximum over-night). When you're ready to serve, scrape the side of pan with a blunt knife, place a large plate on top and quickly invert holding the pan firmly. The caramel will drip down the sides. Its ready to serve! Delicious!!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Pottil.. A Rare Kerala curry

I first heard of this delicious curry when I was in college. My friend Aparna's mother used to make this quite often and I was fortunate to have tried it when I would pop into her home for combined studies. I fell in love with this curry! Its like a combination of sambar and theeyal, two famous south Indian curries. But, not many seem to have heard of it, including my family. 

Now, its a regular at our home. My husband likes it too. We usually have this with rice and a dry side dish like beans thoran, cabbage thoran or beans-kaya mezhukkuperutti. Hmm, it doesnt get better for us Malayalees! So here is the recipe..

This recipe is from my friend Aparna. Thanks a ton to her for introducing me to this.
Disclaimer - I have moved away from the original recipe by replacing bittergourd with carrots and tomatoes. In my opinion, the usual vegetables we put in sambar will work perfectly well here.

Serves - 8


For roasting and grinding-

Grated coconut - 2/3 cup (I used ready-made coconut powder since that is what I can find around here as a substitue)
Dried red chillies - 3 or 4
Onion  - 1/3 of one large, chopped (Traditionally, we are supposed to use small red onions, but regular onions work just fine)
Coriander powder - 4 Tsp
Oil - 2 Tbsp

For the main curry-

Tur dal - 1 1/4 cup
Onion - 2/3 of one large
Tomato - 1 medium
Carrot - 1 small
Turmeric powder - 1 Tsp
Red chilly powder - 1 Tsp
Tamarind - equivalent of 1 Tbsp
Salt - 2 Tsp
Oil - 1 Tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 Tsp
Curry leaves - to season   


  • Cut the 2/3rd onion, carrot and tomato into large cubes and soak the tamarind in some water
  • Pressure cook tur dal with the spices including salt upto around 3 whistles
  • When the cooker is ready to open again, put in the chopped vegetables and pressure cook again (with more water if required) upto about 6 whistles
  • Roast the grated coconut and onions in oil, in low heat, with intermittent stirring
  • When they turn a light brown, add the dried chillies and coriander powder. Switch off in around 45 seconds.
  • Let the roasted mixture cool a bit and then grind to a paste with about a cup of water
  • By now, it is time to open the pressure cooker. Add the tamarind water to the cooked dal and veggies and bring it to a boil. Check the salt at this stage and add as required
  • Now add the ground coconut-coriander powder paste to this and simmer-cook for about 3 minutes
  • Finally season with some spurted mustard seeds and curry leaves

I would say this curry is like sambar but instead of sambar powder, the main spice here is coriander powder. And I am sure all Malayalees would agree to the ground coconut paste! Yes, we all just love it! Try this, I guarantee you, this will become a favourite!