Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Tips for Baking Perfect Brownies


Brownie Secrets:

Here is a compilation of tips from my own baking experiences and from known bakers around the globe. Brownies are often among the first recipes a beginning baker attempts. In fact, many of us baked our first proud batch of brownies as children. And, just as likely, we've puzzled for years over why such a "simple" recipe can have such variable results: too dry, too blah, too underbaked in the center.
And there are other questions as well: What makes a brownie "cakelike," "fudgy," or "chewy"? Why do some brownie recipes call for a mere two ounces of chocolate and others for as much as six ounces? What effects can different types of sugar create? Is there any way to remove brownies neatly from their pan?
If these questions have you frowning over brownies, cheer up! We've assembled the best tips and secrets to make your next batch-and every batch-a success.


Brownie Types
The classic brownie consists of just a few ingredients: butter, sugar, chocolate, eggs, and flour. Fudgy brownies (which purists often claim are the only real brownies) have a minimum of flour–about half a cup–and no leavening such as baking powder at all. Melting the butter rather than creaming it with sugar yields a denser, fudgier outcome. Unsweetened chocolate is the standard, with a full cup of sugar required to balance its bitterness. Either granulated or brown sugar may be used; substitute one for the other in equal proportions. The deeper the color of the sugar, though, the more pronounced the molasses flavor. It's all a matter of personal taste.
1. Cakelike brownies are really … well, little cakes! They contain less butter and more flour than fudgy brownies, as well as a bit of baking powder to make them softer and lighter. Often the softened butter is creamed with the sugar rather than melted with the chocolate. (Creaming incorporates air into the mixture, which causes the brownies to rise higher.) Many cakelike recipes also call for a bit of milk to add tenderness.
2. Chewy brownies usually get their texture from two factors: an extra egg (or even two) and a combination of different types of chocolate. Of all the chocolate types, unsweetened chocolate has the highest proportion of starches, which create a stiffer-textured brownie. Semisweet chocolate produces a creamier texture. Put the two together, often with a few tablespoons of cocoa powder to round out the flavor and thicken the texture, and you get a rich, satisfyingly chewy result.
3. Blondies are really butterscotch bars, made with brown sugar, butter, and eggs (and usually nuts as well), but no chocolate. Typically, blondies have a cakelike texture.


A Note about Fat
Brownies aren't a low-fat treat. Besides the butter–as much as 8 ounces, or one full stick, per batch–there's the cocoa butter in the chocolate itself. For a calorie-trimming alternative, look for recipes that use unsweetened cocoa powder instead of bar chocolate, or substitute 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder, plus 1 tablespoon butter, for each ounce of unsweetened chocolate. ("Dutch-process" cocoa has the smoothest, mildest, and richest flavor.) Most cocoa powder has only 10 percent to 12 percent fat, compared to unsweetened bar chocolate's 50 percent to 55 percent. And many tasters can't tell the difference!

Preparing the Pan
First, use the pan size specified in the recipe-usually but not always 8 inches square. Baking in a too-large pan will yield thin, dry bars that may taste fine but won't resemble true brownies. Baking in a too-small pan may result in brownies with undercooked centers.
Be sure to select a light-colored, shiny pan, which will conduct heat evenly. Glass or dark-colored pans can cause the edges to overbake or even burn.
Always grease the pan thoroughly with shortening, softened butter, or cooking spray. (Do this even if the recipe doesn't specify.) After greasing the pan, many bakers like to line it with pieces of parchment paper or aluminum foil that have been cut larger than the size of the pan so that the edges hang over the sides like a sling. Thoroughly grease the lining. After the brownies have baked and cooled, the lining may be lifted out of the pan and inverted on a platter. Gently peel away the foil or paper, then cut the brownies into squares.
Brownies can also be baked very successfully in a well-greased mini-muffin tin, which eliminates the problem of cutting into squares.

Mixing and Baking
Most brownie recipes begin with melting butter and chocolate together. The safest way to do this is in a double boiler or any small pan placed over a pot of gently simmering water. If you're an experienced baker, you can place the butter and chocolate directly in a saucepan over a low flame. Be sure to stir the mixture constantly. Butter and chocolate may also be melted together in a microwave oven on medium power, opening the oven and stirring the mixture every 20 to 30 seconds.
Overmixing the ingredients can cause brownies to turn out tough or for a thin crust to form on top. Mix wet and dry ingredients just long enough to blend them, taking special care not to overbeat after the eggs are added.
To improve the texture of brownies, place the unbaked batter (in the prepared pan) in the refrigerator for several hours or even overnight.

How Long to Bake Brownies?
Experience is the best guide, but here are some general rules. For fudge-style brownies, remove the pan when the sides have shrunk slightly away from the edges of the pan. The center will still be slightly gooey, but will firm up during cooling. Cake-style brownies are done when a toothpick inserted into the center has a few moist crumbs attached to it.
To prevent burning the bottoms of your brownies, place the pan on a preheated cookie sheet or pizza stone.

Cutting and Storing
Brownies will be easier to cut if you place the pan in the freezer for several minutes. Dip a sharp knife in hot water, wipe it dry, and move it across the pan in an up-and-down sawing motion.
Pastry chef and chocolate expert Alice Medrich, who has written several books about baking with chocolate, swears by something she calls the "Steve ritual," after a friend who discovered the technique by accident. She bakes her brownies for a shorter time at a higher temperature (375 to 400 degrees), then placing the hot pan in ice water about ¾" deep. The sudden change in temperature produces a crisp crust and a soft, dense center.
After you cut the brownies, either cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil or remove the brownies and place them in an airtight container. If they contain perishable ingredients such as cream cheese, place them in the refrigerator. At room temperature, they'll keep for three to four days; in the refrigerator, about five days.
Freezing brownies may affect their texture, so it's best to take a few precautions. If the brownies have been cut into squares, wrap each square in plastic wrap, then in foil, and then place the wrapped squares in an airtight freezer bag.
Alternatively, you can freeze the whole pan briefly-just long enough to harden the brownies. Then remove the brownie "block," wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Place the block into a large airtight freezer bag and freeze.


Hints and Tips:
  • They keep well in an airtight container.
  • Trim the edges so that the cookies will be uniform. Use a sharp knife and wipe the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
  • Don't Refrigerate. It will dry out brownies
  • They'll keep for 4 to 6 months in the freezer. 
  • For short-term storage, layer them between wax paper or parchment sheets inside of a container with a tight-fitting lid. You can store your brownies this way for up to five days. For longer-term storage, freeze them. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and put them in a heavy plastic bag. They will last for several months.
  • Only use glass or shiny metal pans. Dark or non-stick pans will cause brownies to be soggy and low in volume.
  • Line pan with aluminum foil. This saves on cleanup.
  • Only grease bottom of pan to allow for rising.
  • Allow brownies to cool in pan before cutting.
  • trim the edges so that the cookies will be uniform. Use a sharp knife and wipe the blade with a damp cloth after each cut.
  • Cut cooled brownies with plastic or table knife to insure smooth-sided bars.
  • Always use toasted nuts. This enhance the flavor of the nuts.
  • A recipe calling for an 8 x 8-inch pan can be doubled and baked in a 9 x 13-inch pan. A recipe calling for 9 x 13-inch pan can be doubled and baked in half-sheet pan, 12 x 18-inches. If you take a recipe that calls for a 9 x 13-inch pan and multiple it by 1.5, you can use a 10 x15-inch pan.

Quick Fixes for Bad Brownies

If your brownies don't bake up to your expectations, one of these could be the reason why…

UNEVEN:

Batter wasn't spread evenly in the pan.
The oven rack wasn't level.

OVERBAKED

If you use a pan that's larger than the one called for in the recipe, brownies will be thin and dry.
Oven temperature was too high.
Next time, check brownies sooner than the baking time called for in the recipe.

TOO GUMMY

You used a pan that was smaller than called for.

TOO TOUGH

Dry ingredients were overmixed. Stir them in with a wooden spoon till moistened.

CRUMBLES WHEN CUT

Make sure that the brownies are completely cooled before cutting them.
Do not use a sawing motion when cutting.
Warm the knife blade in hot water, dry and cut. Clean and rewarm the knife after each cut.

Sources : 

Brownie Links :



Thursday, June 23, 2011

Marriage - by Kahlil Gibran

“Love one another, but make not a bond of love: 
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls”


You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore.
You shall be together when white wings of death scatter your days.
Aye, you shall be together even in the silent memory of God.
But let there be spaces in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone,
Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together:
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.




By Kahlil Gibran (January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931)
From The Prophet (1923)
Section : Marriage
Lebanese American artistpoet, and writer. Born in the town of Bsharri in modern-day Lebanon (then part of Ottoman Syria), as a young man he emigrated with his family to the United States where he studied art and began his literary career. He is chiefly known for his 1923 book The Prophet, a series of philosophical essays written in English prose. An early example of Inspirational fiction, the book sold well despite a cool critical reception, and became extremely popular in 1960s counterculture.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

3 Life Secrets


Think Good Thoughts.
Speak Good Words.
Do Good Actions.

Three steps that will bring more to you 
than you can ever imagine.



What happens every 60 seconds on the internet?



Some digital facts just for knowledge sake.
 Adapted from Your Digital Space - a very cool Tech site.


Every minute on the internet:
  • More than 168 million emails are sent
  • 695,000 status updates and 510,040 comments are published on Facebook
  • Google serves more that 694,445 search queries
  • 370,000+ minutes of voice calls done by Skype users
  • 20,000 new posts are published on Tumblr
  • 13,000+ hours of music streaming flows from Pandora
  • More than 13,000 iPhone apps are downloaded
  • 6,600 images are published on Flickr
  • 600 videos (about 25 hours of content) are uploaded to YouTube

Click image to view large version



Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dignity of Being a Dad - Happy Father's Days



The Dignity of Being a Dad
Re blogged from the Ji'Kinam blog, A Brotherhood for Dads. 


No one can describe to a man what having his own child will mean to him. Words simply cannot do justice; each man needs to discover it for himself.
Still, we need talk about what being a father feels like so we can better understand and leverage the strength it brings us to do whatever it takes for our kids. We also need to pass what we learn on to the next guy so he is equipped to step up for his kids. We need to share our experiences; not the tired, poor, stretched, etc. feelings, but the profound ones: how doing our job for our family makes us feel as men.
As men, our stereotyped desire is wanting to be seen as attractive, sexually active and successful with women. Pick up any men’s magazine: in keeping with the fantasy, among the articles on six pack abs and turning her into a nympho, you will be hard pressed to find any evidence any of us are married, or worse, are tied down with children. So while we still buy the magazines (hey, it’s a fantasy), we know better.
The reality is that we men broadly report that being seen as honorable, resourceful and respected is much more important to our sense of manhood. Before our child arrives, we have already learned that having one woman who cares deeply for us, loving her, protecting her, having her belong to us and us to her, knowing she can count on us no matter what, is a great feeling that brings out the best in us as men.
We then made the big leap – a child, fatherhood and family, with our mate turning into a mom – and run into another stereotype: the notion that fatherhood is emasculating, that becoming a father, with all that diaper changing, baby talk, nurturing, etc. somehow make us less of a man. And we learn otherwise.
We find that taking care of a sick baby through the night is not for wimps, and that providing for a family can require a great deal of strength. As we teach our child new things and he gets excited when he sees us, we learn how incredibly important we are to him. It takes time, but we discover that caring deeply for a child - protecting him, having him belong to us, us to him, knowing he can count on us no matter what - gives us a mission in life, a purpose larger than ourselves.
Fatherhood challenges us, but it also enlarges us and reshapes our perception of what is important in the world around us. As we take stock of this new world, we find that doing our job as a dad is inherently honorable and respectful, and brings to us the dignity that goes with the territory. Far from being emasculating, being a dad makes us men in the finest sense of the term.

Re Blogged from :  Ji'Kinam Blog : 
 Ji'Kinam: Brotherhood of Dads



Friday, June 17, 2011

Mixed Vegetable and Mushroom Pasta





Ok so here is the pasta recipe. It's really VERY simple. In fact, you can improvise and create any kind of flavour ….it all depends on the individual taste really. 

I used the tri-colored Fusilli pasta…those curly spring looking ones. The only reason why I used it was because there was half a packet left from previously. I kind of like the look of them. The colour faded after boiling though :( 


For vegetables, I used bell peppers, mushrooms, baby corn and cherry tomatoes. You can add or omit any vegetable, depending on your taste. As for the sauce, again, to suit your taste. You can omit the cream cheese spread if you do not like a cheesy taste to it. This recipe is enough for 4 persons.





Mixed Vegetable and Mushroom Pasta
  • 300 gm Boneless Chicken fillet/breast cut into small bite sizes.
  • 1/3 packet boiled Fusilli Pasta
  • Cherry Tomatoes halved
  • Few Baby Corn - Sliced
  • 1 yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic - optional, but I cannot resist it..it gives such a beautiful flavour.
  • 1 cup fresh white button champignon mushrooms - stems removed and halved
  • 1 can champignon button mushrooms - halved
  • 1 Green Bell Pepper, 1 Yellow Bell Pepper, 1 Red Bell Pepper - Cut into bite size squares - I used half each though because the ones I had were huge! Oh, did I mention my inner child loves colourful food?..lol
  • 1-2 tabsp Kraft Easy Cheese Spread - any soft or light one will do
  • 1 packet Campbell's Instant Wild Mushroom Soup Mix - 1 box has 3 packets in it…i used only one. You can substitute with can soup.
  • 1 cup water - The amount is really up to you whether you want the pasta mixed in immediate sort or if you prefer lots of gravy to serve separately as a topping for the cooked pasta. 1 used 1 cup because I mixed the cooked pasta in.
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tabsp  olive oil


Method


  1. Heat oil in pan and saute half the onions and garlic lightly for a minute or two…do not wait till the onions go limp.
  2. Add in the chicken and when it's almost cooked, add in mushrooms and cook for a further 3 mins - the idea is to saute fast and not overcook anything….we want the flavor to come out yet to keep them looking good.
  3. Add the water, cheese cream and the powdered wild mushroom mix. Stir till well mixed and almost to a boil.
  4. Add all other vegetables and balance of onion and mix well. Pepper and salt to taste.
  5. Turn off the stove. Serve it separately as a sauce topping for pasta or add in your cooked pasta and mix well and serve immediately. 



Enjoy!

xoxoxo
Nur







Thursday, June 16, 2011

Pasta



Before I post the pasta recipe, I think it would be a good idea to first have some basic knowledge about pasta. There are so many shapes and sizes and is impossible to know the names of all them – much less what kind of sauce works well with what shape. I will cover some of the basics.

Shaped Pasta
Shaped pastas pair well with all kinds of sauces. The smaller shaped pastas work well with a simple sauce but most shaped pastas can be paired with a chunkier sauce because they are sturdy enough to hold up with the other ingredients. They are also used in pasta salads and casseroles. The shape tends to make it look appetizing with an aesthetic visual.

Conghiglie
Shell-shaped pasta, used in soups and sauces, and the American version in salads.
Gnocchi
Potato dumplings, best served with a ragu sauce.
Farfalle
Also known as butterfly or bow tie pasta. Works well with most sauces, both red and cream.
Orecchiette
Means, literally, “little ear.” It traps sauces in its hollow section.
Radiatore
Called “radiators,” because they resemble little heaters, they trap sauces in their ridges.
Fusilli
“Short Springs” – often served with a light tomato sauce.
Ruote Di Carro
“Cartwheel” shaped pasta – works well with a red sauce and cheese.


Tubular Pasta
Short, tubular pastas go well with sauces that are thick or chunky. Keep the size of the ingredients in mind: tiny macaroni won't hold a chickpea, while rigatoni may feel too large for a simple tomato sauce, where penne would work better. Ridged pastas provide even more texture for sauces to cling to. 

Penne
Probably the most common penne is made smooth or with ridges and can be served with a wide range of sauces, both chunky and/or creamy.
Rigatoni
Most popular with Italians and served with either meat sauces, or tossed with butter, parmigiano-reggiano cheese and a little cream.
Chifferi lisci
Elbow macaroni – used in soups.



Long Strand Pasta Noodles
Long, thin dried pasta, such as capellini, spaghetti, or linguine, marry best with olive-oil-based sauces. These long expanses of pasta need lots of lubrication. Oil coats the pasta completely without drowning it. Thicker strands, like fettuccine and tagliatelle, can stand up to cream sauces and ra'gu. (a meat-based sauce, which is traditionally served with pastaTypical Italian ragù include ragù alla bolognese (sometimes known as Bolognese sauce). When cutting vegetables or herbs for long pasta, cut them string-like rather than in cubes to help them blend better. 

Spaghetti
The most well known and versatile pasta of the bunch. This pasta can be used with a variety of sauces, either red or cream.
Angel Hair
Also known as Capellini or Capelli D’Angelo, work best in broth. In Italy, it is often used as a dessert pasta.
Linguine
Flatter shaped noodles than spaghetti, linguine works well with red and cream sauces. More popular in the US than it is in Italy.
Bucantini
This pasta is made with a hole in the middle, like a straw. Works well with robust meat sauces.
Ribbon Pasta
Ribbon pastas are best when rolled by hand, which creates a delicate, textured porous pasta that absorbs and attracts butter and cream-based sauces unlike any others.
Tagliatelle
Classically served with a meat bolognese sauce.
Pappardelle
Holds up well with large chunks of mushrooms and chicken.
Fettuccine
Best with cream based sauces such as Alfredo.

Stuffed Pasta 




Stuffed pastas consist of fresh pasta sheets that are stuffed with a filling. The pasta sheets are folded over and sealed or another sheet is placed on top and the edges are sealed after the filling has been added. Some sheets are folded over the filling and then twisted to form a little hat shaped pasta. Stuffed pastas are formed in different shapes, such as squares, circles, triangles and half moons. They are stuffed with a variety of fillings, which consist of a mixture of ingredients, such as meats, cheeses, herbs, mushrooms, and vegetables. Stuffed pastas are first cooked and then generally served with a light sauce. They can also be served in a broth or added to a salad after they have been cooked.


Ravioli
The most popular pasta here in the states, it is stuffed with either meat, seafood, vegetables, or cheese. Works well with a tomato sauce.
Tortellini
Crescent shaped and served on New Year’s Eve in broth or with a cream sauce.
Tortelloni
Square-shaped ravioli stuffed with Swiss chard, or spinach and ricotta cheese. Best when served with a butter sauce or just parmigiano reggiano.
Cannelloni
Sheets of pasta spread with a variety of fillings and rolled up like a jelly roll and baked.
Lasagna
Large sheets of pasta that are layered with sauce, meat, seafood, vegetables and/or ricotta cheese.


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