Tag Archives: Sweets & Candies

Easy Lemon Cheesecake with Blackberry and Ginger Spiced Topping

Easy blackberry cheesecake

There are few desserts as rich and delicious as cheesecake.  Personally, I prefer cookies, but Piyush–who swears he does not like sweets!–is definitely a “cheesecake man.”

In fact, he likes it so much that it’s all he wanted for Christmas.  No presents, just cheesecake.  Heck, that’s easy enough!

I first made this particular cheesecake during the last season of Master Chef.  There was a pressure test where the contestants had to bake a cheesecake in an hour.  I was stunned!  At that point I had never actually baked a homemade cheesecake before, but I knew it had to take longer than an hour!  Continue reading

Gajar Halwa: Indian Sweet Carrot “Pudding”

This post has been a long time coming.  I’ve started writing it (what seems like) a million times, but no matter how hard I’ve tried to finish…it just wasn’t happening.

The phone would ring.  A time sensitive email would show up in my inbox.  Piyush would want the laptop to practice Chess–he’s a competitive player, don’t ‘cha know? Dinner would need to be made.  Excuses, Excuses, Excuses!

Yes, that is a room full of chess players.  Very serious stuff, I tell you.

Yes, that is a room full of chess players. Very serious stuff, I tell you.

I also wanted to apologize to any one and every one of my dear readers who have left me a comment or sent me an email or personal note–and I haven’t responded.  I’m extremely grateful for all the kind words and comments I’ve received lately.  I’m also so, so very sorry for my slow responses.  We’re leaving for India soon and I’ve had so many things to tie up before we leave, I promise It’s on my agenda. :-D

Anyway, tonight (it’s around 12:30am and I recently got home from work) I’m finally going to share with you one of my favorite Indian sweets!

restaurant style carrot halwa, indian desserts, gajar halwa, gajar ka halwa, indian sweets, carrot pudding, carrot dessertGajar Halwa!!!

I first tasted this magnificent treat on a dinner-date with Piyush, and it was love at first bite. Continue reading

Rose and Pistachio Cookie Bars

rose cookies, rose biscuits, rose and pistachio, rose and pistachio dessert, pistachio cookies, persian flavored cookies

Rose and Pistachio Cookie Bars

I’ve had the idea for these cookie bars for quite awhile.  In fact, it’s a recipe that’s been sitting in the recesses of my mind, begging to be created.

The idea came to me one night while I was reading.  For some reason all my best recipe ideas have popped up when I’m relaxing and enjoying someone else’s writing.  I’m not quite sure what triggered the thought, but at that moment I decided I needed to combine the flavors of rose and pistachio in a cookie.

It had to be done.  Continue reading

Kala

Gulab Jamuns and Kala Jamuns: Indian Sweet Success!

Whoa! I haven’t blogged for over a week! I had quite a few posts started, but I just couldn’t find the motivation (or the time!) to complete them.

But really, if I’m being honest, it’s probably mostly because I just wanted a break from the computer…and the kitchen.

Indian Sweet Kala Jumun

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you may remember my first attempt to make gulab jamuns.  If you’re new to my blog, Namaste and thank you for visiting! You can read all about this tasty little sweet HERE.

Although gulab jamuns are quite tasty, kala jamuns are definitely far superior in taste (in my not-so humble opinion).  Kala jumuns are simply blackened gulab jamuns.  A scant teaspoon (more or less, depending on your recipe) of sugar is added to the dough.

When the dough balls are fried, the sugar begins to caramelize, creating a dark colored shell.

Frying the dough balls

After a few minutes…

Kala Jamuns: Black Gulab Jamuns

I’m not really that good at frying things–remember when I melted the plastic spoon (what was I thinking?!) trying to deep fry samosas?–so some lessons I’ve learned when deep/shallow frying are:

  1.  Do not use plastic utensils.  This should be pretty self explanatory, but apparently it isn’t.  Either that, or I have no common sense.
  2. Don’t keep the heat turned to HIGH, you’ll end up burning your food–and yourself.
  3. Don’t put too many things in the oil at once.  The temperature will lower significantly and the food might be oily/mushy.
  4. Don’t use the wok.  I’m not sure why this didn’t work for me, because it seems like it’d be a great pan to fry stuff in.  But my oil got way too hot, way too fast…and wouldn’t cool down.  My food was burned on the outside and raw on the inside.  Maybe there’s some frying-with-a-wok secret that I’m not aware of?  Care to enlighten me?
  5. While frying stuff–especially things that cook relatively quickly–you’ve got to pay attention.  This isn’t the time to organize your spice cabinet, or unload the dishwasher.  Trust me.

Aside from frying the dough-balls, they also have to be rolled properly.  If your dough balls have cracks all over them, they will probably break apart in the oil.

They might also become hard in the centers…and no one enjoys hard gulab jamuns!  There are a few simple ways to avoid the cracking of your gulab jamun dough.

First, you’ll want to be sure the dough isn’t too dry.  You might need to add a little additional liquid–only a tiny bit at a time.  The ideal gulab jamun dough should be pretty soft, and not crumbly.  It also shouldn’t be sticky or overly wet.  You’re aiming to find a happy balance between wet and dry ingredients.

If your dough seems fine, then maybe you need to re-think your rolling technique.  What i do is pinch a piece of dough and roll a ball between my two hands.  The ball will usually have a few cracks.  Then, I simply flatten it in my hands and re-roll the ball.

The photo on the top is what my dough looked like after I just rolled it into a ball with my hands.  This is what that same piece of dough looked like after I flattened it and re-rolled it:

You can see it’s a pretty huge difference!

Now, since we’ve talked a little about technique, let’s get to the recipe!  This recipe is quite good–perfect, even.  It took quite a few trials, and a lot of failures;

FAIL! The dough was too wet and I used too much baking soda. The dough looked perfect, but as soon as it hit the oil it swelled huge…and then collapsed.  The oil also was not hot enough.

but I’ve finally figured out how to make this extremely popular Indian sweet at home!

After my first trial, I got quite a bit of feedback from blog readers (thank you!) and my in-laws.  In fact, Maa (my mother-in-law) was so determined to help me, she attempted to make a batch so she could give me some pointers (and a great recipe!).

Maa’s looked so pretty, so perfect;

Maa’s beautiful gulab jamuns

but sadly we don’t get fresh khoya (thickened milk “dough”) here in America.  And I definitely didn’t have time to sit over a stove and stir all day.  So I did a little searching and found a bunch of things I could use in replacement of the fresh khoya.

Luckily, I was able to find something called “mawa milk powder” at my local Indian market.  Mawa powder is probably the next best thing to actual fresh khoya.  It’s similar to milk powder–but it’s thicker.  It is basically a dried version of khoya (you can learn about the differences between regular milk powder and mawa powder HERE, if you’re interested).

So now that I had the mawa powder, I had to figure out how to turn it into khoya.  I did a lot of research online, and couldn’t really find a definite answer.  I found one recipe that said to use 2 cups mawa powder and 1 cup of liquid.  So I tried it.  I kept adding milk/mawa until I got the amount of khoya Maa told me I’d need.

The dough looked promising, but it just didn’t work.  The gulab jamuns fell apart in the oil and became quite flat.  After a lot of experimenting, I finally stumbled across the magic and mysterious ratio of mawa powder to liquid!

Kala Jamuns with a candied raspberry, pistachios and rose petals

The sugar syrup is quite easy.  Just toss 3 cups of sugar along with about 2 1/2 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat.  I added a few spices–cardamom and rosewater (I never really measure)–and let it cook for a good 20 minutes, until it thickened and became quite sticky.

When it’s the right consistency, remove from heat and cover with a lid to keep warm.

You can add cardamom, clove, cinnamon, maple syrup, lavender, rose water…the options are endless!  Just be sure to taste and add a little at a time so that the spices don’t become overwhelming  (especially important with cinnamon and rosewater!).

This makes quite a lot of syrup, more than you’ll ever eat with the gulab jamuns.  When the sweets are gone, I strain the syrup into a bottle and toss it in the fridge, labeled as “Gulab Jamun Syrup”.  It’s perfect on pancakes, in coffee, or to use in baking!

Gulab Jamun (Kala Jamun) Recipe:

Makes approximately 15 gulab jamuns–depending what size you make the dough balls

Ingredients:

  • 1 c. Mawa powder (available at Indian grocery stores, or online)
  • 1 tbsp. all purpose flour
  • 2 small pinches baking soda (approximately 1/8 tsp.)
  • 4 to 6 tbsp. half & half (start with 4, add more if needed)
  • spices- as desired (cardamom, clove, cinnamon…ect. Add whatever you like, just be sure not to add too much)
  • 1 tsp. sugar (only if making kala jamuns, leave out if making gulab jamuns).

Directions:

  • Heat a mixture of oil and ghee (I add about a tbsp. of ghee to whatever the amount of oil) in a heavy bottomed pan (I used a non-stick fry-pan).  You don’t need a ton of oil, maybe anywhere from 1/2 c. to 1 c. (this can be re-used a couple times).   Heat to approximately 300 degrees F.
  • While the oil is coming to temperature, toss all ingredients into a bowl and mix well.  Knead the mixture for a few minutes until it becomes smooth and soft.  Add additional liquid, as needed.
  • Roll the dough into crack-free balls, about the size of a large marble.  They will expand while cooking.
  • Once the oil comes to temperature, fry the dough balls in batches–about 4 at a time–until the outsides become brown or black (for kala jamuns) and the interior is cooked.  This should take about 4 minutes.  Be sure to flip the balls around so that all parts have equal color.
  • Remove from the oil and place on a paper towel for 30 seconds to a minute.  Toss into the syrup.
  • Let the gulab jamuns sit in the syrup for at least 20 minutes to an hour before serving–for best flavor!

Kala jamuns, unlike gulab jamuns, are not traditionally served in a bowl of sugar syrup.  Instead, they are usually left to soak the syrup, and then served “dry.”  But I say, do what you want! :)  Rules are made to be broken!

This recipe is absolutely perfect, and I think it’s the closest I could possibly get to recreating what I tasted in India!  Especially for the kala jamuns.  The outsides were sweet, black and oh so tasty!  The insides were moist and soft–not at all dry!

Piyush and I enjoyed these outside with a steaming glass of chai.  Indian sweets pair excellently with chai!

We also shared most of the sweets with friends and family (after all, I made about 5 batches…I was determined to make them perfect!), but they can also be frozen along with some syrup.

If you freeze them, pop them in the microwave for a minute–or so–to warm them up!

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Gulab Jamuns: Trial #1

I enjoy most Indian sweets.  Especially kala jumuns!  …but to make a proper kala jumun–blackened gulab jamuns–I have to first figure out how to make a basic gulab jamun.

Gulab jamuns could be described as lightly spiced donut holes which have been soaked in a fragrant, sweet sugar syrup.   They’re quite good, and can be served hot or cold (I prefer them hot).  Their name literally means “rose-flavored plum,” and they’re probably the most well-known of all Indian sweets (in America, at least!).

Apparently there are many ways to make a decent gulab jamun.  You can use khoya (thickened milk), milk powder, or even bread.

I did some searching online and decided to try making my sweets using milk powder.  I already had the powder and had no idea how to make khoya, so it seemed like the best option.  …I might have to learn to make khoya though.

I used THIS recipe–which was incredibly easy!

gulab jamuns waiting to be fried…

The results were okay.  Not perfect, but they were edible.  The outside of the gulab jamuns were deceiving—they look so nice, so tempting.

The problem was the inside.  I’m pretty sure 2 tsp. sooji (cream of wheat) was too much.  It made the sweets a little crumbly, and the texture was off.  They definitely weren’t like the sweets I enjoyed so much in India.

I also didn’t really like the sugar syrup.  I think the proportions were a bit off, but that’s easy enough to fix next time.  And there will be a next time.

I’ll have to ask maa and baba if they have any tips.  I’m sure they can help me make these perfect!

I love the taste of rose, so I decided to float a few petals–along with pistachios–in the syrup.

If you make gulab jamuns….what is the method you use?  

On a completely unrelated topic, I must show you my niece!  Her birthday was yesterday, and she’s now 2 years old; although she’ll tell you she’s 8.

She is so funny and loves a lot of Indian things—such as bangles, biscuits and bindis (the decoration or dot worn on the forehead between the eyebrows).  She really loves bindis!

I think it’s so cool that she knows what they are, what they’re called, and where they belong.  She sometimes throws little tantrums, crying “where my bindi go?,” and you can’t even trick her by giving her a sticker.  It must be a proper bindi.

Madelyn

Notice the giant clip-on earrings?  This girl is a diva!

Piyush and I are babysitting her on Sunday, I’m sure it’ll be entertaining!

Goat Cheese Swirled Brownies

**This recipe made the Foodbuzz Top 9 today!  Thanks to everyone who enjoyed it enough to click BUZZ!**
At the end of my last post I mentioned that you had these to look forward to:

Goat Cheese Swirled Brownies

I threw a baby shower for my friend, Summer–who is expecting a little girl–and I wanted some of the desserts to be girly and pink.

I made an assortment of desserts, but my absolute favorite were the Goat Cheese Brownies! Continue reading

all wrapped up and ready to be enjoyed!

Fleur De Sel Soft Caramels

I wanted to give Piyush something special for Christmas this year.  We decided not to exchange gifts because we had just returned from India—where we bought so many incredible things!  We also splurged on a pool table for our family room earlier in the month, so there really wasn’t anything either one of us needed, or wanted.

Piyush does so much for me though, so I decided to surprise him with something I know he loves…homemade soft caramels!  We sometimes buy them from Knudsen’s Caramels in Redwing, MN…but seriously?!  $12 a pound is a lot of money to spend on caramels.  They’re delicious and definitely worth it, but it’s a splurge.

I’ve never made caramels before but I figured it couldn’t be that hard, and it’d definitely be a lot more cost effective.  I did a little research online and found a recipe I thought would work.  Long story short, I overcooked them (I blame my candy thermometer!) and they turned out to be hard candies instead.  Failure!

Luckily, my sister stopped by with my niece and her sister-in-law, Rachel.  My sister told me that Rachel makes the best caramels…and graciously she offered to teach me to make them too! I made a few changes to her original recipe…less sugar, less corn syrup and the addition of salt.  I think the salt adds another dimension to the caramel and really takes it up a notch!  And…they tasted a LOT like Knudsen’s caramels!  Mine were a little lighter in color, but I’m pretty sure that could be fixed easily.  I used white sugar.  Their ingredients list includes brown sugar.  Next time I’ll have to make the swap and see what happens.

Fleur de sel caramels

I think any recipe would work to make caramels, the real secret is the timing.  Knowing when to take them off the stove is important and if your candy thermometer is off—you’ll end up with caramels that are either too soft or too hard.  What I found worked the best was throwing a bit of the boiling caramel in a cup of cold water.  I could then reach in and grab the piece without burning myself, and see if I could roll it into a ball.  If you test it this way, I guarantee you’ll have no problems and you’ll be eating delicious caramels in no time!

These caramels were a definite success!  Piyush loved them so much, he convinced me to make an additional batch for our family to enjoy on Christmas Eve.  They only take around an hour to come together…but they take another hour or so to wrap them all!

all wrapped up and ready to be enjoyed!

It was worth it.  I wrapped up a few half pound packages to throw into the gift baskets I made my family and still had tons left! I’d guess one batch makes about 6 lbs (I didn’t actually measure this time). I put the leftover caramels into a pretty bowl and set them out with all the other goodies I made.

some of our Christmas Eve goodies

The caramels were definitely the biggest hit—well, maybe tied with the “Dorthy Cookies”—but that’s another post.

I was excited that my family loved them so much.  My cousins and grandpa even went home with handfuls stuffed in their pockets! By the time everyone had cleared out there were only 4 caramels left in the bowl!

I have a feeling these will be requested at every family function!

I really enjoyed this Christmas.  I didn’t take many photos, but we had an amazing dinner, lots of good conversation, pool tournaments, and even a little Christmas caroling—courtesy of my sister.  I’m really tempted to put the video of her jamming out on Piyush’s guitar here on my blog, but instead I’ll leave you with a few photos instead.

Grandpa yo-yoing ...the younger kids didn't even know what a yo yo was!!!

Penny made a bed out of the tablecloths once all the tables were packed away