Brunch · Desserts/Baking

Sooji (Semolina) Halwa

Halwa is a runny pudding made in indian homes using different kinds of grains, flours, nuts, lentils as well as fruits and vegetables.Halwa is usually pretty quick to whip up and quite popular due to ease of cooking and that it requires basic ingredients that our available in our homes. . Semolina halwa in north indian homes is cooked in a blink to translate any occasion- big or little into a celebration. It is one of the frequently cooked meetha(dessert) in my home, much more than kheer. Thats partly because, growing up my grandma made it everyday was an offering after prayers. A small bowl of nutty, melt in the mouth halwa appeared mid morning infront of us, glistening with ghee and scented with ground black cardamom. It is one of my loved memory of her- of my badi mummy, wrapped in a starched cotton saree feeding us halwa every morning πŸ™‚

You need very basic and few ingredients for this recipe- fine semolina, ghee, sugar and whichever flavor you like- cardamom, rose or saffron. This recipe can be easily made vegan, just swap ghee with coconut oil, you can add a handful of shredded coconut to elevate the coconut flavor in that case. The halwa can be made in about 30 minutes, the most effort and patience is needed while roasting the semolina in ghee, else this is a quick recipe.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you make Sooji Halwa:-

Kind of Semolina (Sooji) – Its best to use fine semolina when making the halwa, the texture comes our great, its melt in the mouth. Avoid coarse semolina.

Water or Milk:- You can use either, or you can use a combination of both. I use water, not only it keeps the color of the dark amber halwa intact but it avoids the halwa from getting too rich (there is already quite a bit of ghee in there!) Also keep in mind that milk will make the halwa a bit soft or sticky to taste.

Sugar or Jaggery or Honey- Again you can use either but traditionally sugar is used and I do the same. If you are using jaggery, don’t use milk. If you use honey, the halwa will be quite sticky and has the tendency to easily burn while you “bhuno” it, since honey caramelizes fast. Also keep in mind that the taste profile sweetened with honey or jaggery is quite different from the traditional recipe.

Nuts & Flavors– Anyting you like! I like almonds and raisins because those were what my grandmother used to use. You can add cashews, makhana or pistachios or shredded coconut as well. As for the flavors, I add black cardamom seeds fresh pounded in mortar pestle and a tiny bit of rose water. You don’t taste the rose as such but it adds a nice floral aroma to the halwa. You can choose green cardamom, saffron, even vanilla πŸ™‚

Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes

Sooji(semolina) Halwa

Also know as sheera, Sooji Halwa is a semolina pudding made with simple pantry staples- semolina, ghee & sugar. It tastes heavenly and takes just 30 mins to make.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Breakfast, Dessert
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • A heavy kadhai (preferable iron) or cast iron pan, sauce pan, bowls and spoons etc

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup melted ghee
  • 1/2 cup fine semolina
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (can go down to 1/3 cup if you prefer less sweet halwa)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 tbsp ghee (optional)
  • 2 tbsp raisins (soaked in warm water for 10 minutes)
  • 1 whole black cardamom seeds removed and crushed to a fine powder in mortar pestl
  • 7-8 almonds, thinly sliced (Use any nuts you like)
  • 1/2 tbsp rose water

Instructions

  • Add the ghee and semolina to iron kadhai (or cast iron pan). Mix well for 2 minutes so that you see all the semolina is covered in ghee. Place the kadhai on a low medium stove and begin roasting the semolina. You will have to keep an eye and keep stirring frequently for it can burn easily.
  • While the semolina is roasting, add the sugar and water to a small sauce pan or pot and set on the other stove on medium heat. In about 5-8 minutes, the sugar will dissolve in water. Switch off the stove, dont cook the syrup. We dont want any string consistency or anything. Keep the syrup near and warm.
  • Coming back to semoilina, keep on roasting it while stirring it making sure to scrape it from the bottom of the kadhai, it burns that way easily. Roast the semolina for good 10- 15 minutes(see notes) till you see that the ghee has begun to seperate and the semolina granules are dark brown in color. There should be no black specks of semolina- that means the semolina has burnt, a conistent medium heat and contuinal stirring ensures that wont happen.
  • Reduce the stove to low, and slowly add the warm sugar syrup from one side of the kadhai to the semolima while stirring it at the same time with the other hand, this makes sure that no lumps are formed. There will be spluttering so watch out.
  • As soon as the syrup is added, you will see a puddle followed by big bubbles in a minute on the surface of the halwa, your will notice that the semolina granules begin to swelled up. it will be runny, let the halwa cook on low heat. Add the raisins, almomds and black cardamom powder now.
  • Keep stirring everything gently and continue to cook the halwa for 3-4 minutes on low heat. Add 1-2 tbsp of ghee (if you wish)and mix well. The halwa will be glistening and of thick smoothie like pourable consistency by the end of 5-6 minutes. Dont let all the liquid absorb. Switch off the stove. Mix in the rose water. The halwa will thicken as it sits.
  • Serve warm garnished with nuts. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. If you don’t want a dark halwa, no problem, roast the semolina for just 5-7 minutes, until its golden in color. Rest of the recipe remains the same.Β 
Desserts/Baking

Rose Pistachio Mawa Ladoo

Ladoos are must on any indian festival and these nutty beauties are super easy to whip up. Mawa makes them so creamy and melt in the mouth and the floral notes of rose water together with meaty pistachios is a match made in heaven. If you are still looking for something easy to make on Holi, try these ladoos.

These are ridiculously easy to whip up and all you need is 3 ingredients. When a recipe calls for few ingredients, I recommend good quality ones since it makes all the difference in the taste. Use fresh pistachios which are sweeter in taste, mawa with a good quality of fat content(you won’t need much ghee then) and rose water or rose essence that is not more than 6 months old.

These ladoos are not overly sweet and I like them that way, you can increase the powdered sugar by couple tablespoons if desired. I like to chop the pistachios on a cutting board instead of using a grinder, I feel that way I can control the texture of the nut powder and the taste is better too.

Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes

Rose Pistachio Mawa Ladoo

3 ingredient, nutty Mawa Pistachio ladoos flavored with rose.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins

Ingredients

  • 200 gms mawa/mava,crumbled
  • 7 tbsp powdered/confectioners sugar
  • 180 gms coarse pistachio powder +1/4 chopped pistachios(optional) ,see notes
  • 1.5 tbsp rose water (or 1-2 drops of rose essence)
  • 1-2 tsp ghee (optional, if needed for rolling ladoos)

Instructions

  • Add mawa/mava to a nonstick pan. Place the pan on stove,switch on the stove on low heat. Let the mawa soften. Mawa softens very quickly and needs attention so that it dosent get burnt. Keep stirring using a spatula.
  • I didnt need to add any extra ghee to mawa, if you feel your mawa is on a dry side add a tablespoon or so of ghee.
  • Once mawa is soft(dont let brown), immediately add the sugar and pistachios together. Mix well untill nicely combined. Keep the heat low, cook everything for 1-2 minutes.
  • Switch off the stove and mix in the rose water and chopped pistachios(if using). Wait for 5 minutes or until the mixture feels cool enough to handle. Dont let the mixture completely cool down.
  • Smear some ghee on your hands and divide into 8-10 equal portions. Roll into smooth ladoos. Store for 3-4 days refrigerated.

Notes

  1. I lightly dry toast the pistachios for 2-3 minutes on a hot skillet. Don’t let the color change, toasting helps in blooming the oils of nuts.
  2. The sugar quantity can go up to 9-10 tablespoons if you like sweeter ladoos.Β 
  3. I chop the pistachios on a cutting board to a coarse fine powder instead of using a grinder. It takes a bit of effort but the texture and taste of nuts is really better that way.Β 
  4. You can replace rose with cardamom or saffron flavor if desired.Β 
Desserts/Baking

Thandai Spiced Badam Nankhatai

Crumbly, nutty nankhatai are everyone’s favorite. I make them often especially for the kids with different flavors and nuts. I make them with besan only, or sometimes with a mix of different flours- all purpose & semolina. There are truly so many combinations of flours and flavors.

This was the cookie which I grew up with. We had a round aluminum oven at my grandma’s place and it saw light of the day just to bake nankhatais. Every two weeks we had a fun baking session with my siblings, aunts and mom and we made tons of nankhatai. The texture of nankhatai is unique- its crumbly yet soft and mouthful. They should be crisp outside but still have a melt in the mouth centre. These nankhatai are super easy to make, just need a handful of ingredients and make for a good treat anytime.

Some tips to keep in mind when making Nankhatai.

  • I use ghee to make the dough. The ghee should be softened, it should not be melted. It should not be solid. It should be similar to softened butter. The flours bind using just ghee and no other wet ingredient, so its important that the ghee is measured properly(too much will make the cookies spread) and is of the right consistency .
  • I make nankhatai using just chickpea flour many a times (will share recipe sometime), however I feel using all purpose flour gives a nice body to the cookies and besan gives an amazing taste. Semolina can be added as well for extra crispiness.
  • The kind of sugar which is suitable is confectioners sugar or powdered sugar. Please dont use granulated or raw sugar ground at home. Store bough powdered sugar has a little bit of cornstarch which helps in the texture of the cookies.
  • Nut powder- If you have allergies, you can skip it and substitute it with equal quantity of flour. Or substitute with any kind of nut powder you fancy- cashew & pistachios work great. However keep in mind to use finely ground nuts in this recipe. Finely ground almonds are different from almond meal. If you have almond meal at home, process it to fine before using.
  • Th best way to know the if the dough is right is so feel it. The dough should come together in a ball and it should be soft yet firm. The dough should not be sticky at all. If it sticking to your hands, that means that you added more ghee and this will make the cookies spread too much when they bake, so add little flour to firm up the dough.
  • I used thandai spices(not powder) to spice up these nankhatai, you can use just cardamom powder if you wish.
  • I used gel colors to the dough in the spirit of festival of Holi, you can skip the colors and make them traditional as well.
Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes

Thandai Spiced Nankhatai

Crumbly ghee loaded indian shortbread which are suitable for festivals, as a snack or any occasion.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time22 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 20 one bite shortbreads

Equipment

  • Mixing bowls, cookie sheet, measuring spoons and cups

Ingredients

For The Nankhatai

  • 75 gms (3/4 cup) all purpose flour
  • 25 gms(1/4 cup) besan
  • 20 gms (about 1/4 cup) finely ground almond powder
  • 75 gms(10tbsp) powdered sugar
  • 75-100 gms (1/3 cup – 1/2 cup) softened ghee, not melted adjust depending on consistency of dough
  • 1 tsp thandai spice powder (recipe below)

Thandai Spice (makes extra)

  • 1 tsp (8-10) black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 4 green cardamom pods, seeds only
  • 3-4 saffron threads

Instructions

  • Add all the thandai spices to a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder.
  • Place a sieve over a large bowl and sift flour, almond flour, powdered sugar and besan. Make sure that there are no lumps.
  • Add the thandai spice powder and mix with fingers to combine.
  • Add softened ghee in parts, a little at a time and start mixing with the other hand(or a soft spatula) at the same time to incorporate the ghee. Mix very well, we want to moisten each and every speck of flours with ghee- makes for a crumbly nankhatai.
  • Incorporate ghee as needed to make a soft yet firm dough. You will use anywhere from 1/3 cup to 1/2 cup depending upon the absorption quality of your flour.The dough should not be loose or sticky. If needed due to wamr weather, refrigerate the dough to make handling easier.
  • Once the dough is formed, divide into 4 portions and and add gel color of your choice to dye each portion.
  • Pinch small portions (these spread a bit) of the dough and place on a baking sheet lined with paper. You can press a whole raw almond on top or any nut of choice. Place the cookies a bit apart since these spread a little(not much).
  • Refrigerate for 10 minutes(dont skip). Meanwhile preheat the oven to 325F.
  • Bake for 18-22 minutes till the bottoms are light golden in color. Cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!
Desserts/Baking

Caramel Custards

These baked, thick & creamy, easy custards are super quick to make with a few basic ingredients from your pantry. This recipe gives a velvety pudding which has a toffee like sweetness and smokiness from the caramel. It is almost like a flan but instead of having a caramel base, the custards are mixed with caramel sauce and baked off. They are immensely smooth to dive into & with some fresh fruit, one of the best desserts there can be.

My husband is a huge fan of ice-cream and custards and I make these often. Even the kids love it for there is caramel in there. A little bit of sea salt cuts the caramel perfectly. These are incredibly rich and creamiest – a small portion is enough to satisfy.

What is a Caramel Custard? A caramel custard is a creamy custard made with egg yolks, cream and milk. It is mixed with scratch made caramel, flavored with vanilla(you can add cardamom or saffron instead for a different flavor profile) and the baked at a low temperature in a water bath. Doing so leads to gentle cooking of the custard and makes sure that the eggs aren’t curdled and the texture of the custard is smooth. I really love the golden color of these custards.

These custards keep well for 2-3 days in the fridge. Make sure you are using good quality ingredients, because when a recipe calls for very few, the best ingredients make it delicious.

Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes

Caramel Custard

A rich and smooth caramel flavored custard made with simple pantry ingredients like eggs, milk and sugar.
Prep Time45 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, French, Mexican
Servings: 4

Equipment

  • Mixing bowls, sauce pan,whisk, baking tray

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup whole milk (or 2%, dont use fat free)
  • 6 egg yolks,(from large size eggs)
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp sugar (substitute with brown sugar for extra smokiness)
  • Pinch sea salt

Instructions

  • To a heavy(important) bottom sauce pot, add the sugar and pour the water slowly so as not to scatter sugar on sides of the pot.
  • Place the pot on a meduim stove and let the sugar melt. Dont stir. However when you see that the sugar is starting to melt, you can gently swirl the pot.
  • Once the sugar starts to melt, keep a watch since it can quickly burn. Can take about 6-8 minutes for the sugar to melt.
  • When the sugar is completely melted, it should be a nice amber color (and not too dark), remove the pot from the stove and continously whisking, add the heavy cream.
  • Return the pot to the stove and cook whisking in between for another 3-4 minutes. Afterwards, switch off the stove, take off the sauce pot and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 300F. Place 4 ramekins in a baking tray(deep enough to fill water)
  • In a large bowl, add the egg yolks and sugar and whisk for 3-4 minutes until pale and the sugar has dissolved.
  • Add the milk and vanilla next and whisk again. By now, the caramel should have cooled down. Pour it over the egg mixture & milk mixture. Mix everything to combine.
  • Strain the custard base using a soup sieve into a jug.
  • Pour into the ramekins. Fill up the baking tray with hot water untill 1/3 red level of the ramekins.
  • Bake for 55 to 60 minutes until set and the centres are firm.
  • Take out of the water bath once cooked, cool to room temperature. Cover the ramekins with cling film or foil and chill for atleast 6 hours before serving.
  • Serve with a few sea salt flakes(optional) and fresh fruit.
Desserts/Baking

Saffron-Pineapple Halwa (Semolina Pineapple Pudding)

For Vasant Panchami (spring festival) yesterday, I made this saffron pineapple halwa. Describable as velvety, rich and melt in the mouth, this halwa is quite different from the regular sooji(semolina) halwa. The semolina is very lightly roasted in ghee,it isn’t very sweet and has a lovely flavor of fresh pineapple in every bite.

To enhance the color and flavor, I used ground saffron which gave this halwa an exciting exotic flair and its golden color. Halwa in north indian homes is considered the quickest dessert ever. My grandmother made halwa almost everyday to offer as prashad. Usually made with semolina, chickpea flour or with whole wheat flour, a bowl of warm halwa is deemed auspicious enough to offer to deity, as a means of celebration or a perfect way to satisfying sweet cravings.

This pineapple halwa recipe is one of my most loved. Its not as simple as folding some pineapple bits at the end when halwa finishes cooking. I infuse the intense pineapple flavor by flavoring the sugar syrup by cooking fruit in it first. Then, while the semolina cooks in the syrup, I add pineapple and infuse it further. As the semolina slowly absorbs the syrup, the pineapple chunks get a bit softer and release their juices.

A couple things to be kept in mind when making Pineapple Halwa.

  1. Try and use fine semolina in this recipe. It makes a huge difference in the texture and consistency.
  2. Avoid using canned pineapple. Go for firm (not overripe) pineapple. If the pineapple is too ripe, it will fall apart when you cook it. It is best to use little tangy, not overly sweet fresh pineapple.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Pineapple Halwa

A rich and velvelty semolina pudding made with fresh pineapple and flavored with saffron.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 servings

Equipment

  • Cooking Pot, Kadhai/Wide Pan

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1.25 cup water
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple chunks (small squares)
  • 10 saffron strands
  • 1 tbsp warm milk
  • 1/3 cup melted ghee, divided
  • 1/2 cup fine semolina
  • 2 tbsp raw whole cashews
  • 2 tbsp raw pistachios plus more for garnish

Instructions

  • Add the sugar and water to a medium pot and set on the stove to boil.There is no need to stir. Just when all the sugar has melted. no need to cook it further, add the pineapple chunks to hot syrup and switch off the stove. Let sit for 10-12 minutes
  • In the meantime, add the saffron strands to a mortar, add a pinch of sugar and grind to a fine powder. Add warm milk and mix. Let stand to infuse.
  • Set a heavy kadhai/wide pan on low medium stove, add 1 tbsp of ghee and saute the nuts for a minutes stirring continously. Brown the nuts a little taking care that they dont burn. Take out in a bowl.
  • Add another tablespoon of ghee to the kadhai and add the semolina. On low medium stove, toast the semolina in ghee for 3-5 minutes until the grains appear to be swelled but do not change color. Keep stirring continously using a cooking spoon and dont let the color of semolina change.
  • Once toasted, reduce the flame to low. Grab a spatula in one hand and add the sugar syrup along with pinapple to the semolina with other. There will be a bit of splutter so be careful. Gently but quicky start mixing the semolina with the syrup using the spatula. It will swell and the halwa will start to thicken in no time. This happens very quickly and spatula is the right tool to stir with. Dont let any lump form and keep stirring continously. The halwa might feel a bit sticky but its okay.
  • Once all the syrup is absorbed, add the remaining 1/4 cup ghee to the kadhai and keep mixing and stirring to combine well. Slowly ghee will be absorbed (about 2-3 minutes) in the halwa and you will see its no more sticky rather shiny and grainy.
  • Add the browned nuts and saffron mix to the halwa and again mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes and then switch off the stove. It will thicken a bit as it sits.
  • Serve garnished with more nuts and few saffron threads. Best served warm.
Desserts/Baking

Black Forest Cake Trifle

Black forest cake is one of the best cakes out there. Spongy kirsch soaked dark chocolate cake, soft juicy cherries filling, creamy chocolate pudding and whipped cream. The layers in this black forest trifle all combine into an amazing combination of rich and decadent.
I used fresh cherries(though out of season) to make the cherry pie filling layer but it tasted quite good. With a splash of Kirsch, it was so good. If you don’t want to use cherries, you can use strawberries or raspberries and make a compote.If you dont want to use liquor, skip it and use any non alcoholic juice (cherry or pomegranate juices are a good option). The trifle is best made a little ahead, keep it refrigerated once you have assembled it.

I added scratch made creamy chocolate pudding chocolate which gave it utmost richness. All in all, an amazing dessert for any occasion.It is not at all difficult to make, but yes making the components takes time. However, you can spread out the work over a couple of days and assemble just a few hours before serving. I baked the chocolate cake a night before, while the cake baked I made the cherry filling. While the cake cooled, I made very the pudding.Kept everything refrigerated and next morning just before assembling, I whipped up the cream. Easy peasy.

Trifles can be made in advance, however I won’t do it more than a day ahead. However, you can make the different elements 3-4 days in advance.The individual components in this entire recipe are amazing on their own. This is my go to chocolate cake recipe, you can use the cherry filling as icecream or yogurt topping and 2 ingredient eggless chocolate pudding is a shortcut but it delivers.

Print Recipe
0 from 0 votes

Black Forest Cake Trifle

A decadent layered dessert of Kirsch soaked dark chocolate cake, fresh cherries, creamy chocolate pudding and whipped cream.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

One 9 inch Chocolate Cake

  • 120 gms (1 cup) all purpose flour
  • 150 gms (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
  • 40 gms (6 tbsp) unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup whole milk, room temperature
  • 5 tbsp neutral oil
  • 5 tbsp hot water or coffee
  • 1/2 tbsp pure vanilla
  • 1/4 cup Kirsch for soaking the cake

Cherry Pie Filling (Skip this if you want and use store bought Cherry Pie Filling)

  • 1 lb (400 gms) fresh cherries, pitted
  • 3 tbsp water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tbsp kirsch

Chocolate Pudding

  • 6 oz (1 cup) semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) heavy cream
  • pinch sea salt

Whipped Cream

  • 1 cup (240 ml) heavy whipping cream
  • 2-4 tbsp powdered sugar
  • 1 drop pink gel food coloring, optional
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp Kirsch

Instructions

Bake the Cake

  • Spray a 9 inch pan with oil. Line the base of the cake with parchment paper. Flour the sides of the cake pan with cocoa powder.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • In a large bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
  • In another bowl, whisk together milk, oil, egg and vanilla.
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour the wet ingredients. Fold in gently till alomst incorporated. Pour over the hot coffee and gently(don not whisk) everything so that you can see a smooth shiny brown batter with no streaks of white flour. The batter will be quite runny but thats okay.
  • Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 28-32 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. The cake will start to pull away from the sides slightly as well.
  • Take out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Run a knife all around and take out the cake out of the pan on to a cooling rack. Cool completely. Once cooled, you can store the cake in the fridge for 2-3 days. This cake freezes easily, just wrap the cake in a cling film followed by placing it in a large ziploc and freeze upto a month.
  • If you are making trifle cake next morning, poke holes all over in the cake and add Kirsch to the hole, let soak up. Store the cake overnight or for 2-3 hours atleast. For the trifle, cut up the cake into small cubes using a sharp knife or cut rounds the size of the serving bowl as you wish.

Make the Cherry Pie filling

  • In a sauce pan, add the cherries,water, sugar and lemon juice. Set to cook on a low medium stove.
  • Slowly you will see that the cherries will start to soften. Let cook for 5-8 minutes.
  • At the end of 8 minutes you will see a lot of liquid in the pot, these are cherry juices and moisture of sugar. It will be bubbly.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the cornstarch all at once. Immediatly stir around (but gently else the cherris will break).
  • Cook for 2-4 minutes, you will see the liquid will thicken up and the filling resembles a thickish gel.
  • Take off the heat and let cool for 5 minutes. Mix in the kirsch.
  • Once completely cooked, store in a air tight jar.

Make the Choolate Pudding

  • Place the chocolate chips in a large bowl.
  • Warm up the heavu cream in a small pot. You will start to see bubbles on the sides of the pot. Take off the stove and pour over the chocolate chips.
  • Whisk gently untill all the chocolate is dissolved. Cool down to room temperature and then chill overnight.
  • In the morming simply beat using a hand mixer untill fluffy. Easy chocolate pudding is ready.

Whipped Cream

  • Place chilled heavy cream in a large bowl. Beat for 5 minutes untill it starts to thicked.
  • Add the powdered sugar slowly and keep beating untill soft peaks are formed.

Assemble the trifle

  • In a Large trifle bowl or in individaul serving jars, layer the cake, cherry pie filling, pudding as you like. You can repeat the layers to make large servings or keep them singl layer of each component, totally your wish.
  • Chill for 3-4 hrs till ready to serve. Top with whipped cream and some marachino cherries and serve!
Appetizers/Snacks · Desserts/Baking

Brownie Bottom Saffron Cheesecake Bites


These mini cheesecake bites combine two of my favorite desserts. A cream, slightly tangy cheesecake batter atop fudgy brownie layer when eaten together with airy whipped cream is a burst of textures and flavors in your mouth. The bites are flavored with my favorite indian spices and the spiced layers complement each other so well. The brownie layer has hints of fresh ground green cardamom while the cheesecake batter gets its golden color and exotic flavor from saffron. My favorite brand to use is Zaran Saffron.

These bites are incredibly quick and easy to make once you gather the ingredients which aren’t too many. The combination of chocolate and saffron is both bold and exotic.I took to mini cheesecake bites sometime last year and its one of my favorite things to bake. This recipe makes a batch of 10-12 bites which keep well for 2-3 days in the fridge and are amazing for a post dinner sweet craving.

A few things to be kept in mind:-

  1. Make sure that your ingredients are are at room temperature wherever mentioned. I can’t stress this enough.
  2. The brownie layer is baked first to set before adding the cheesecake batter but make sure to not bake the brownie layer fully.
  3. Bake the cheesecake bites till the centers are jiggly. Do not bake all the way through. They will finish setting up while chilling.
  4. A common problem is cracks in the cheesecake layer. The reason is that when your ingredients are not a room temperature, we tend to overmix the batter and incorporate too much air in the process. This makes the batter rise too much during baking and it comes cracking down after you take it out of the oven.However, dont stress too much about it because you can always cover the cracks up with ganache or dollop of whipped cream or fruit toppings. Remember taste over looks, always! πŸ™‚
  5. Another common problem is that the cheese batter is grainy and not smooth after you beat it. Again, this happens when the cream cheese is not at room temperature.
  6. After the baking is over, dont pull out the cheesecakes immediately out of the oven, switch the oven off, open the door and let them hang out there for 5-8 minutes.
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Brownie Bottom Saffron Cheesecake Bites

Fudgy, cardamom scented brownie bottom topped with golden saffron cheesecake filling. A bold exotic dessert.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 12

Equipment

  • Bowls, Hand Mixer/Whisk, Spatula, Muffin Pans,Paper Liners

Ingredients

For the Brownie Layer

  • 4 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 tbsp semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour sifted
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder sifted
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom

For the Cheesecake Filling

  • 10-12 strands saffron
  • 1/2 tbsp warm milk
  • 8 oz cream cheese (please dont use low fat or no fat), softened at room temperature
  • 1 large egg room temperature
  • 1 tbsp sour cream room temperature
  • 1/3 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp lemon or orange juice
  • pinch sea salt

To serve

  • whipped cream

Instructions

Brownie Layer

  • Line your 12 muffin/cupcake pan with liners and preheat oven to 350F.
  • In a medium bowl, add the butter and set it in microwave to completely melt for minute or so. Once melted, take out and immediately add the chocolate chips. Wisk well gently till smooth. The chocolate will melt in warm butter.
  • Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk well for 2-3 minutes till everything is creamy and the sugar is dissolved. By this time the mix would cool down as well so its ready for egg.
  • Add the egg to the coo butter sugar mix and whisk well to combine.
  • Next, add the flour cocoa powder and cardamon. Using a spatula combine everything until you cannot see any white flour. The mix will be smooth and sticky. And too tempting to lick πŸ™‚
  • Add about 1 tbsp of heaped brownie batter to each liner. You can decide which layer you want to make thicker and add the batter accordingly.
  • Set in the oven to bake for 6-8 minutes untill the brownie batter is set. Dont bake all the way through. After its set, pull out the tray and you will that the brownie layer is puffy but it will puff down while you make the filling.

Cheesecake Filling

  • Grind saffron strands using mortar pestle, pour over warm milk and let infuse.
  • In a large bowl, add all the ingredients under the filling and using a hand mixer, beat for 2-3 minutes until smooth and fluffy. Dont over beat.
  • Add the infused saffron next and beat for 10-15 seconds to incorporate.
  • Add about 1/4 cup to the cupcake liners filling with brownie crust. You can add the filling in a ziplock bag and pour too. So I had planned for 12 cheesecakes but ran out after 11th one was filled.Β Β Once filled, tap the pan a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.
  • Bake for 13-15 minutes or until set, little jiggly in the centre is fine. Dont overbale else the cheesecake will not be soft after chilling.Once baked, switch off the stove, open the door and let the pan stay there for a 10 mins.
  • After 10 minutes, pull out of the oven and transfer to a rack to cool down completely.
  • Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving. Add dollop of whipped cream before serving.
Brunch · Desserts/Baking

Citrus Yogurt & Olive Oil Cake (Eggless & One Bowl)

A super soft yet a firm cake with a beautiful crumb. It has a rich tang of whole milk yogurt and fruity hints of olive oil in every bite. I have been making this eggless cake for many years and get asked for a recipe every time I share it on my Instagram page. The recipe is ridiculously simple and uses just one bowl (how easy!)

I added blood orange juice (can you see a faint pink hue?) because they are in season but any kind of citrus will work in this recipe- naval orange juice, meyer lemons or regular lemons. Just make sure that you squeeze the citrus juice fresh before using. To cut the sweetness of sugar and the richness of olive oil, you do need lots of acid – that why both yogurt & citrus come helping, dont worry the cake isn’t tangy.

I like to serve it with faintly sweetened whipped cream on the side , however, you can cover it with frosting if you wish so. As for the flavors- cardamom with its balmy lemony notes is my absolute favorite, however use rosewater, saffron, vanilla – whatever you fancy. Use this recipe as a blank canvas for any eggless cake.

Ideally I like using a 8 inch round cake pan, but if you don’t have one, that fine too, just use a 9 inch cake pan and the cake will be slightly flatter but as delicious.

Recipe

Ingredients (Makes one 8 inch Cake, serves 4-6)

  • 125 gms whole milk plain greek yogurt, room temperature & slightly beaten (see note)
  • 210 gms granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 125 ml good quality olive oil (please dont use extra virgin)
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed blood orange juice
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground cardamom powder
  • 205 gms all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup heavy cream, soft whipped with 2 tbsp sugar for serving

Note – Please use thick (ideally greek) yogurt in this recipe. If you reside in a place where you dont have access to greek yogurt, use hung curd if your yogurt tends to be watery.

Method

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray or brush an 8 inch round cake pan with olive oil. Line the base of pan with parchment paper. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the beaten yogurt, sugar, vinegar, olive oil, orange juice & zest, salt and cardamom. Whisk for good 2-3 minutes until everything is smooth and nicely combined.

Sift the flour and baking powder over the yogurt mixture. Using a spatula, gently fold the flour until all combined. Don’t over mix. Pour the cake batter into the prepped pan, it will be slightly runny.

Bake for 32-38 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Take the cake pan out of the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the cake carefully (its soft and moist) onto a wire rack and let it cool completely.

Slice and serve with whipped cream and fruits.

Enjoy!

Desserts/Baking

Gingerbread Cheesecake Bites

The crust is made with buttery ginger snaps and the filling is cream cheese spiced with warm ground spices- cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and ginger . It all works so beautiful together and the balance of cheese and spices is just so wonderful.

I am so fond of mini cheesecake bites (more than the entire cheesecake itself) and played around with my recipe to make it holiday friendly. These are much simpler to make than an entire cheesecake and they are super easy. All you need is a block of cream cheese, an egg, sugar and spices for the filling. For the crust I used ginger snaps but you can use cinnamon grahams or chocolate cookies or anything you like.

It took me a while to wake up to gingerbread since the first time I tasted it. Even for someone like me who adores spices, a few bad baked ones spoilt my palate for it before I took matters into my hands and came up with the right ginger spice blend for us πŸ™‚

Make sure that the cheese and egg are room temperature else the filling won’t be smooth. This is important for the cream cheese to blend well.

Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 10-12)

For the Crust

  • 12-14 ginger snaps
  • 1.5 tbsp butter melted
  • 1 tsp sugar

For the Filling

  • 8 oz cream cheese (please dont use low fat or no fat), softened at room temperature
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp powdered sugar (confectioners sugar)
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamom
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • pinch of salt
  • Toppings – whipped cream or caramel, nuts, melted chocolate, toffee sauce etc

Method

Line your 12 muffin/cupcake pan with liners and preheat oven to 350F.

Add the ginger snaps to a food processor fitted with metal blade, add butter and crust them to a fine powder. Put a heaping tablespoon in each liner and press down using back of a cup or spoon. Set aside.

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients under the filling (except topping) and using a hand mixer, beat until smooth and fluffy.

Add about 1/4 cup to the cupcake liners filling with crust. You can add the filling in a ziplock bag and pour too. So I had planned for 12 cheesecakes but ran out after 11th one was filled πŸ™‚ Once filled, tap the pan a few times to get rid of any air bubbles.

Bake for 13-15 minutes or until set, little jiggly in the centre is fine. Once baked, switch off the stove, open the door and let the cakes be there for a 10 mins. Pull out of the oven and transfer to a rack to cool down completely.

Chill for at least 6 hours or overnight before serving. Add toppings as you wish.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Appetizers/Snacks · Desserts/Baking

Chai Spiced Shortbread Sandwiches with Dulce De Leche Filling


Faintly sweet shortbreads encasing a burst of caramelized milky filling. These cookies are filled with aroma of spices in each bite. I used chai spices reminiscent of aromas in my tea masala. The dough is flavored with freshly pounded cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel and dried ginger and the shortbread are simply irresistible!

I tried my hands at shortbread cookies this season after a gap of many years. Learning to bake a perfect shortbread has been a journey, I had little clue about the nuances of a perfect cookie when I started baking over half a decade back.

Once a dear friend who also happens to be a pastry chef told me that shortbread is one of the hardest things to master because the dough uses very few ingredients,. And it certainly is. Flour butter and sugar is all you need, what can go wrong, right? It took me many many attempts to master shortbread and it is one my favorite things ever.

Quite certainly a finest cookie- buttery and crumbly and melt in the mouth. These cookies are very addictive and really not that hard to make. Just keep a few things in mind.

  • Use softened butter. Best is if you set it out overnight on the counter or in a slighty warm place to soften. If you cannot, put the stick in a bowl and microwave at 50 percent power for 5-8 seconds until its soft to touch but not melting.
  • Rest the dough. Overnight is best. But you can store the dough for 2 days easily or freeze for a month. For a cookie like this. resting makes the dough so so flavorful because the spices get time to mingle.
  • Take the cookies out of the oven just when they are soft. They will continue to bake for a few minutes after. If you let them brown too much, they will become crispy and hard.

Recipe

Things you will need

  1. Stand Mixer or Hand mixer
  2. 2-3 large mixing bowls
  3. Whisk
  4. Rolling Pin & Pastry board or a large board to roll cookies the (you can use kitchen counter as well)
  5. Spatula
  6. Two large cookie sheets
  7. Parchment Paper

Ingredients (Makes 20-24)

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground green cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 8 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup Dulce de leche for filling

Tip: You can use recently purchased ground spices in this recipe. If you want to make your own, simply add 2 cloves ,2 green cardamom, 1/2 inch piece of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp fennel seeds to your spice grinder and pulse to a fine powder. Mix in the ground dried ginger and your chai spice is ready for baking.

Method

In a large bowl, sift the flour. To the sifted flour add all the ground spices and salt. Using a whisk, mix the spices thoroughly with the flour. Set aside.

In the stand mixer bowl (or you can use another large bowl and a hand mixer), add the butter and brown sugar. Cream the butter and sugar till pale and fluffy for 2-3 minutes. Start adding flour in parts and mix on low speed. Just when you see that all the flour has binded with the butter, stop mixing and dump the dough on a floured surface. The dough will be little crumbly but dont worry. Gently bring it all together into a soft ball. Divide the ball into two and shape each half into rounds. Flatten the rounds and place each in a ziplock bag(or wrap in a cling film). Refrigerate overnight or for upto 2 days.

Take out the refrigerated cook doughs and place on the counter 30 minutes before you are ready to make cookies. Line two large cookies sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350F.

Place another large sheet of parchment on your work surface and dust the sheet with flour liberally. Flour your rolling pin as well since this dough tends to stick and you want to be able to pick up the cookies after cutting them.

Using the rolling pin, roll the dough into 1/4 inch thickness. Using a 3 inch round or fluted round cookie cutter, cut into cookies. For half the cookies which will go to top of sandwich, you can use 1 inch fluted star or round cookies cutter to cut the center out. Using a floured spatula, transfer the cookies to the baking sheet. Make sure that you count and have even number of bottoms and top cookies.

Gather the scraps and repeat the process until all the dough is exhausted. Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes until they start to turn light brown on the sides/bottom. Pull the sheets out of the oven and let the cookies cool down for 5-7 minutes on the sheet itself before transferring to a cookie rack.

Let the cookies cool down completely before you fill them. Place 1 tbsp of Dulce de leche on the bottom cookies and sandwhich with the top cookies.

Enjoy!