Z for Zebra Cake

Zebra cake is another version of a marbled cake. In a Marbled Cake, you scoop up each part of the batter separately and drop them in the tin in various places and then with a spoon or a knife or a toothpick, you swirl around the batter to give it marbled look.

In a Zebra Cake, you drop the batter in turns. So you have two parts of the batter. One plain and one with cocoa. When it’s time to pour the batter into the tin you put it spoon by spoon. So starting with either of the batters, you take a spoon (preferably tablespoon) of say the plain batter and put in the middle of the tin. Then you take the cocoa batter and put that in the middle of the plain batter and continue till you’re done filling the tin with all of the batter. It’s a bit time consuming and you need to be patient to get the desired effect. But once it’s done and baked, it looks perfect. At least, that’s what all the recipes indicate. I haven’t tried it yet. I have made Marbled Cakes but not in this fashion.

I find it extremely fun to try out various designs with the batter itself. You can create funky designs, pretty ones, colourful ones. There’s a plethora of choices available. And if you’re artistic, you don’t even have to worry about it. You can create your own desgins.

This year is all about exploring for me. Especially when it comes to baking. I have been on a cookie baking spree these past few months and it’s likely to continue for the whole year. But I want to venture into other categories. I am planning on making Eclairs this week for a small (about five people) lunch gathering. I haven’t made these before and I am crossing my fingers and hoping they turn out great. My sister has faith in me and hasn’t even thought of a backup plan. So I cannot screw it up. I have been experimenting with my own recipes too but they are not fool proof yet. With this whole month surrounding the topic on baking, I am the least bit exhausted. It’s something I enjoy so I guess I never really will be tired of it.

P.S. Hope you all enjoyed reading the posts. This was my first attempt at the challenge and I guess I did pretty okay. If I do decide to join in next year, I’ll strive to do better. But I want to thank everyone who visited and read and took the time out to comment on my posts too. I really appreciate it and am ever so grateful. I hope you continue to read my posts and enjoy the journey. To all the lovely people whose blogs I’ve been reading and following, my journey with you all does not end with April. You are now part of my ‘blogging friends’ group’ and I will continue to read your posts as and when I can.

©NJ

Image courtesy:- Google.

Y for Yule Log

I’ve never eaten or seen a Yule Log. The dessert version, might I add. It’s traditionally served just before Christmas. It is majorly a sponge cake and it resembles or closely resembles an actual Yule log. This dessert is quite famous in Switzerland and France etc.

It is usually baked in a shallow pan, iced and then rolled to look like a log or a Swiss Roll, iced again and then decorated further to resemble a log. There are various combinations but the most basic one is a simple yellow sponge cake with chocolate buttercream.

The logs are usually served with a piece cut from one end of the log so that it can be placed on top of the log or near it to resemble chopped wood. Then some sharp knife or fork dragged through the icing to resemble a tree bark kind of structure. Of course, to make it more Christmasy, one can also sprinkle some icing sugar for the snow effect. If you want to go a few steps further, you can even try other decorations using meringues to show a few mushrooms or berries or tree branches etc.

This year, my sister and I are planning to bake one. We are going to try it out with a chocolate sponge cake though and some lovely chocolate or espresso ganache. The trick will be to make it look like a log. If it were just a simple cake, it would be dead easy. But a Yule Log, we’ll know this year.

©NJ

Image courtesy:- Pixabay.

X for Xuixo

Xuixo

Finding a dessert that starts with an X was a hard task. I did not realise they weren’t any desserts that start with the letter X! This one took me forever to find. Boy, am I glad I did. Else I would be in an awkward position.

It goes without saying that I have neither eaten nor baked this one. What is Xuixo do you ask? Well, I had to google it myself so here’s what I found.

Xuixo, also known as Xuxo or Suso is a pastry from the city of Girona, Spain. It looks similar to a croissant. But with Xuixo, it is a cream catalana filled pastry that is deep fried and then covered with sugar.

Just like croissants, this too is often had for breakfast with a cup of tea.

Legend says that this pastry was created in a pastry shop that was owned by one Emili Puig. He was shown how to make a cream filled pastry and that was his inspiration for Xuixo.

This delightful pastry is common in popular not only in Girona but also in neighbouring parts of Spain too. At one point, it was one of the most demanded pastries. Now, they are served with a chocolate icing too.

©NJ

Image and information courtesy:- Wikipedia.

W for White Chocolate Mousse

I’m not a fan of white chocolate. I find it extremely sweet and considering it’s not exactly chocolate per se, I think I can be forgiven. White chocolate is not even made using cocoa powder. Rather they use a blend of cocoa butter, milk solids, sugar etc.

Anyway, even though I’m not a fan, I did want to try it out in a dessert. I’m not averse to baking with it. Just eating it. So I thought the easiest form of dessert to try out was a mousse. It’s light and airy and once again a single serve dessert. You don’t have to worry about finishing it or make large quantities of it. Of course you can if you want to.

Except for my sister, no one in my house is a HUGE dessert fan. We’ll eat our desserts in moderation. So baking a gigantic cake or an extra-large sized tub of goodies are a no no. Hence, the White Chocolate Mousse. Thankfully it turned out well. A tad oversweet for my taste but you learn as you try new things. The texture though was perfect and that’s what counts. This was my first time making a mousse and I was a little nervous. Desserts like these can very easily be goofed up. And as usual, I never keep backups.

I crossed my fingers and hoped it would turn out well. It did.

©NJ

V for Vanilla Ice Cream

Vanilla Ice Cream with Gajar ka Halwa

Whoever first invented no churn ice creams was a godsend. Without him/her/them, making ice cream wouldn’t have been so easy.

A couple of weeks ago, my parents came down for a visit and stayed for a week. Apart from feeding them like mad, we also ensured that there was something sweet to eat after every meal. Nothing too big or fancy. Just single serve bite sized treats. Two days before they were leaving, I decided to make some ice cream and my sister decided to make an Indian sweet dish called Gajar ka Halwa. I’ve never tried that combination before but I have heard that it’s supposed to be really good. We, of course, had the option of eating them separately!

It’s peak summer in India right now. Temperatures are 40degreesC and above (and climbing). So we thought ‘what better dessert than ice cream on a hot summer day?’

Ice cream is one of my weaknesses. That’s one dessert I really love. I don’t know if this was a true story or not, but when I was a kid, whenever we (my family) had ice cream I would do two things.

One is, I would chew the ice cream. Now, I’m sure you’re thinking that there’s nothing wrong in that. Ice cream could have chunks of fruits or nuts or even chocolate chips etc. but no, my dear readers, the ice creams we ate had none of those. And yet, I would chew it. Don’t ask me why or how or any other similar questions. I just did.

Second thing that I would do is to finish off my scoop as soon as possible and then go around asking my family members for more. The funny thing was that I wanted the extra from their plates. I didn’t want my mum or my dad putting another scoop for me. Nope. I wanted it from their plates. I did this quite a few times so from then on they would just add extra on their plates knowing I’d be doing the ‘rounds’.

Of course, now I’m glad I make my own ice cream!

©NJ

U for Upside Down Cake

Fresh Figs, Walnut and Rosemary Upside Down Cake

I’ve always found Upside Down cakes tricky. Not the baking part but the ‘taking out of tin’ part. If a regular cake gets stuck or breaks a bit here and there, you can fix it and still make it look pretty. How in the world are you supposed to do that with an Upside Down cake?!

The first time I had an Upside Down cake was this year. For my birthday. It’s the post for the letter P. It turned out perfect, did not stick to the tin and came out clean and neat out of it. After seeing that, I had hope for when I baked one too.

I recently found this amazing recipe online and I have become a huge fan of it. I’ve never used Fresh Figs or Rosemary in baking and I was dying to do so. The taste of fresh figs is something out of this world. They taste far better than the dried ones.

Anyway, this recipe I followed to the T. Usually I lessen the sugar or add some extra chocolate or walnuts etc. Nothing too out of the way but just the stuff that I know won’t alter the taste too much.

Boy oh boy, did the cake turn out perfectly. I was petrified till the moment I took the cake out of the tin. But it slid right out and did not stick at all. The figs moved a bit from their original positions but who cares. I successfully baked an Upside Down cake.

Oh and did I tell you we were in cake heaven as we ate it? It tasted D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.

©NJ

P.S. You can check out more of her recipes at Sweetly Serendipity.

T for Tiramisu

I’m not a coffee person. And Tiramisu has coffee.

When I was in college, I was completely averse to coffee. No coffee drink. No coffee flavoured toffee. No coffee flavoured dessert. Absolutely nothing that had coffee in it. Strangely enough, I loved the aroma (still do) of coffee. Even stranger was the fact that I come from a coffee town. My native is in the South of India so people always assumed that I’d like coffee. Actually strike that. They assumed I’d love coffee. Even the city that I grew up in is a huge coffee fan. But me? Nah. I’m a tea person.

All my friends would swoon over Tiramisu and tell me that I had to try it. I would not my head and hmmm and hawww about it but I never ventured there. Years later, at a friend’s birthday lunch celebration we ordered a slice of Tiramisu and that was my first tryst with it. To say that I love it would probably be an understatement. That’s when I figured out that I’m not averse to the flavour as such but as to the concentration of coffee. If it’s too coffee-ish then I can’t take that. But a lightly coffee flavoured treat is not a problem anymore. Heck, I even drink coffee! Again, not the strong versions but the lighter ones. That too, once in a blue moon. Actually the blue moon might occur more frequently but you get the picture.

©NJ

Image courtesy:- Pixabay.

S for Sugar Cookies

I’ve always wanted to bake sugar cookies and even more so to decorate them. It is just so much fun! You don’t have to follow any rules when it comes to decorating. Make your own designs and choose your own colours etc. I’ve always wondered why they were called Sugar Cookies. But after we made it and judging by the amount of sugar that was used for the cookies and the icing, I think I do. It may not be the actually reason as to why they are called so but I’m going to go with this one.

Recently a friend of mine shipped her stock of baking ingredients to me since she was moving to another city and would not be baking there. My sister and I were in awe with the amount of icing sugar that was sent. But, three months down, and we finished it all off. Majority of it being used for the cookies.

Here, it’s hard to courier baked goodies. You need to find a really good courier service that will do so. I finally found one nearby who couriers them  as long they do not have any cream or anything that will melt off in the package. I took that as a blessing and thought that the least I could do for my friends is send them cookies. Just sending pictures of the goodies I baked weren’t enough. LOL.

I had once baked Chocolate Cupcakes for my friends and given them when we all met up. One of my friend’s son loved them. Ever since, he would request that I bake cupcakes for him. Unfortunately, when you’re living in another city, it’s not that easy. So when I learned that I could send cookies, I did not even hesitate. I made an entire batch (it made around 75 cookies) and shipped them off to him as a surprise for his birthday.

He’s still enjoying them.

©NJ

R for Red Velvet Cake

Some time ago my friend mentioned that people in her city are crazy fans of the Red Velvet. Be it cakes or cupcakes. They thought the cake had some magical ingredient that makes it so red and pretty. She crushed their hopes by telling them that the ‘red’ from the cake simply came from using the colour RED. They, of course, were shocked and couldn’t believe her.

Not taking away anything from the cake, Red Velvet cakes are really pretty. Of course, they taste good too. I mean it has cocoa. ANYTHING and EVERYTHING tastes better with cocoa. It’s chocolate, for crying out loud!

But I do sort of get why they go gaga over it. I mean, when we baked it for the first time, we were excited as well. The red in the cake stands out so well and then you have the fluffy white cream cheese frosting that’s a perfect match for the dark redness of the cake. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great picture of the one we baked so I won’t upload those.

The fun part about using colours is that you can use whichever colour you want. I have been noticing on quite a few recipe sites/blogs where people are now making Green Velvet cakes too.

So, really, it’s just a chocolate cake with the colour of your choice.

©NJ

Image courtesy:- Pixabay.

Q for Quick Bread

Lemon Bread with Lemon Syrup

Quick breads are usually breads that are made without yeast. It is generally made using ingredients like baking powder/baking soda to help that rising factor. The rising happens while it is baking as opposed to yeast breads that rise before baking.

The best part about quick breads are that they don’t require any kneading, they are incredibly fast and easy to bake and once again can be the ideal gift for birthdays or small family dinner parties etc.

The Lemon Bread that I made was just simply fantastic. Who knew that lemons could make such fantastic desserts, right? Topped with some sticky sweet lemon syrup and it gives you the perfect tang to the sweetness of the bread.

The various kinds and combinations available are humongous. Just look up Banana Bread or Lemon Bread, or even Pumpkin Bread and you’ll see that they are indeed suitable to the name Quick Breads.

©NJ