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Cake Bake in Portugal

11 Nov

Our Wedding Anniversary Cake 2014

As you can see from my previous posts that I am writing about our recent Portugal trip and food experiences. Its been quite few years in a row, that we plan our vacation during September, as  our wedding and my daughters Bday anniversaries fall on the same week in Sep. Apart from site seeing & relaxing, we are curious to try out new food around the places we visit. But I had not tried to make an anniversary cake by myself. Baking and decorating a cake is such a fun activity, that I didn’t want to miss this time for our family occasion.

This year, I decided that I should wet my hands in making a cake at any cost. Nothing should stop me in baking and decorating a cake – how ever the outcome may be :) … 2 weeks of Vacation, 4 total days of drive, and if I had to bake a cake and decorate with the idea I had in mind, I will end up spending the whole time in kitchen. So planning,planning, planning….The idea was to make a Flower basket cake and I planned to make all the flowers and basket ahead. One week before our Vacation, I started making flowers and basket and made them to dry well. All flowers were handcrafted and few of them were created using flower cutters.

Everyday for a week, after winding up our day around 8pm, Riya and I start our favorite sugar modelling and it will go until 11pm and sometimes 12. She likes to help me in making flowers as it was a Summer  holiday time for her. Sometimes, a ball of sugarpaste is what she needed to play and  to make her favorite figurine to give me as  a present in the evening.

Lots of trial needed atleast for making Roses. Other sugar flowers can be made easily with flower cutters. For this basket, I tried home made sugarpaste. Other parts are made from SatinIce sugarpaste and Wilton fondant.  You will also need few modelling tools to start with a simple cake. Once your interest grows, you can easily notice that your collection for cake accessories are also growing along :) . Yes, I had to pack two cartons of my accessories and Cake figurines and flowers and that explains.

My Mom and me were chatting the other day before the vacation and was discussing about this… she just told me a comment, why not relaxing in Holiday and doing this after returning  home. Vacation for me is do what you like to do…even if it is hard work, at the end of the day you should feel happy..

Modelling is Ok. What about the cake? The cake tins and dry  ingredients needed for the cake are packed. I had to do a little shopping there to buy Butter and perishable ingredients. My curiosity wanted to check the cake section and see if there is any special ingredients that they use. There was big section of self raising cake flour (pre made cake flour with baking powder and baking soda) which is not very prominent here.  Ok lets pick that and try a cake with this flour..(Had a second thought in mind..if my bake didn’t turn out good, had a plan to buy premade regional cakes and decorate it with my homemade sugar flowers.) Not a bad idea hmmm..

The next Challenge was gas oven at the vacation home..Did take sometime to switch it on and there was no control to regulate the heat, but atleast happy that it had an on/off switch. Whats next, try some new flavor of cake..Until one day before had no idea what flavor to go for..But as I planned the cake to be served for our breakfast, so lets try coffee cake.

Coffee cake with its natural coffee flavor(no additional flavors)

Ingredients :

  1. Self Raising flour – 1 and half cup
  2. Sugar 3/4 cup
  3. Egg -3
  4. Coffee- 2Tbs(mixed in 20ml of warm water)
  5. Milk – 100ml
  6. Butter – 125gm

Method:

1. Beat Butter and sugar until soft.

2. Add egg one by one and incorporate to the mix.

3. Add flour and coffee,milk  alternating  each and mix until they are combined to a  smooth mixture.

4. Bake it for approx 1/2 an hour in an preheated oven.

Once it is cooled…I layered the cake and applied dark Chocolate Ganache like here and stuffed the cake into basket. Finally filled with sugar decorated flowers.

The Coffee cake was delicious and reminded of CoffeBite chocolate which we used to have during my school days. And the flowers on top was refreshing for our eye and no one dare to try that beautiful flowers. Those Rose flowers are smiling now in my living room.

This was our Wedding Anniversary cake..Next post will be Riya’s Birthday cake…

Yellow flower made by Riya

Flower Basket Cake

 
 

Cataplana & Algarve Beaches

20 Oct

See food Cataplana.

Whats your traditional dish? A typical question any curious foodie would ask if one is in a foreign land. The famous one in Algarve region of Portugal is ‘Cataplana’.  Its interesting to observe how the food is prepared and served. It also reflects the life style of Portugese fishermen. Cataplana is prepared by steaming mixed seafood, vegetables and other aromatic ingredients together in a special pot (also called Cataplana). Although simple, the dish tastes excellent.  The process of steaming in a closed vessel retains all the juices from seafood & vegetables within the pot and it adds a natural taste to the dish. The fish doesn’t have to be perfectly cut. Just use whatever fish you may get it from sea. I liked the wholesome pot meal which is a balanced meal in itself.  The sauce goes well with Portuguese bread.

Cataplana is a dish cooked with seafood(fish, shell fishes..) and some sausages along with onion, tomatoes,garlic, olive oil and white wine. There are slight variations on what goes as a main ingredient to this dish. Fish Cataplana or Shell fish cataplana or Meat Cataplana. I observed that the meat one is an adapted one over some period.

We tried it in a Restaurant called ‘Millennium’ in Lagos during our last year trip.. Soon the restaurant became our favourite and we visited again this time as well. It was surprising to find out the ingredients from restaurant staff. It is closer to one of the traditional dish, Meen Kuzhambhu, from south indian fishermen community. In India, the sauce is prepared almost in the similar way minus the wine, plus tamarind,and spice powders in a clay pot. In Algarve, Corriander leaves are used and in the northern Portugal, Parsley is used for garnishing.

We enjoyed the dish along with Ciabatta bread, which was very close to the bread served in Restaurants in Algarve.

Ingredients:

  1. Mixed fish – 500 gms
  2. Mussels – 100gms
  3. Prawns – 100 gms
  4. Onion – 2 big
  5. Tomato – 4
  6. Olive oil – 2 Tbs
  7. piri piri sauce -1 Tbs
  8. Garlic -5 pods sliced
  9. Salt for taste as required
  10. Coriander for garnishing
  11. White wine – 1/2 glass
  12. Boiled potatoes – 100 gms (cubed or sliced)

Victoria See Barsh fish, Salmon fish, Pangasius fish, Prawns and Mussels.

Method:

1. Place the Cataplana pot on heat, add oil and once it is hot add garlic and saute for half a minute.

2. Add onion and saute until it is transparent. Add 2 chopped tomatoes and saute for a minute.

3. Grind the 2 tomatoes in to puree and add it to the pot.

4. Now arrange the seafood in the order they cook. The one takes longer time should go at the bottom and which takes short time like prawns or Muschels should go on the top layer.

5. Add the fish pieces in a layer and sprinkle some salt. Then add potatoes, Muschel and prawns on top layer and sprinkle some salt for this.

6. Add piri piri and add white wine. Close the lid and cook it covered for 10 minutes on a gas stove. Garnish with corrainder and switch off the stove.

My ceramic stove took nearly 25 minutes to finish cooking whole dish.(you also get the special cataplana pot for the induction stoves.). It would perfectly fit for a gas stove.

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Algarve Beaches

The south and south west region of Algarve is surrounded by beautiful beaches with rocky cliffs. Literally every 0.5km to 1 km you may find a beach, which has its own beauty. Meia Praia in Lagos is one of the longest beach in Algarve covering 4kms.  It is famous for water sports and wind surfing. The beach itself reminded me of ‘Marina’ beach in Chennai, India.

Meia Praia

Praia do Camilo Beach. This is one of our favorite beach with beautiful rocks and sea green water.

Praia do Camilo Beach.

Benagil Beach. A small beach but famous for Europe’s largest water caves (Will cover in next posts)

Faro Beach.

People enjoying last weeks of swimming period in Faro. (Swimming not allowed after September due to cold weather)

It was a beautiful experience to see Faro backwaters low tide and high tide changes. The boat happily floating during high tide and rests on sand during low tide as below.This change happens approx. every six hours.

Low tide Faro back waters.

Panoramic view of Porches beach.

Porches church and beautiful view of sea. Dont miss the beautiful sunset from here and bright fullmoon is an added bonus.

 

Destination Portugal! & Pastel de Nata (Portugese Egg Custard Tarts)

16 Sep
Yuhu!!…very happy to visit Portugal once again this year… Sweet memories of our last trip inspired us to make it again. We decided to go by car, as we love the beautiful landscapes when we cross borders of Germany, France, Spain and Portugal. One way drive from our place(from south west of Germany) to Algarve region in Portugal is 2500kms. My hubby was very enthusiastic to drive the whole stretch and we especially like the contour variations that nature provides us with, especially in Spain and Portugal.

No traffic and less vehicles in Highways starting from Spain
As the journey is also part of our vacation, we wanted to enjoy every part of it. This was our Itenary- our home ->SanSebastian> Algarve(Our destination in Portugal)->Barcelona->home. we took sleep over break in intermediate destinations. SanSebastian is a cute destination, which we accidentally discovered in our last trip. It is a beautiful city along the sea coast (north of Spain). Barcelona is our ever favorite destination and we never miss an opportunity to visit Barcelona, where we stayed on our way back home.

Beautiful Mountain Landscapes and Olive trees everywhere…

Now coming to the landscapes and trees, the coniferous spiky trees  slowly disappearing and short varieties of shrub trees and olive trees everywhere until your eyes can reach . Mountains were green in France and slowly when you move down to Spain, the mountains where rocky and gets dry . Further down south, one can see Orange trees and lemon, olive trees and grape wines everywhere in Portugal. Figs,palm trees and eucalyptus are not to miss.
Fresh oranges from farm, sold on the road side, getting reminded of my home country, India. It was juicy and perfect to enjoy on a hot day. Mangoes were delicious and sweet.
Orange trees in Portugal

Oleander, Hibiscus, bougainvillea in different colors and varieties seems to be in most of the houses and in public gardens. During spring there are different kinds of flowers.
During September, the average temp has been ~28deg and it gets hot when you have to drive facing the sun. We badly needed an chilled lemonade or an watermelon juice. We got some lemon drink on the highway shop to chill down a bit.
One half of Algarve has beaches with rocky cliffs, other half of Algarve has dessert like beaches( olhau, Tavira). Every 1 km approximately you will find a new beach.
Chimney in every house is an essential exterior design

Pastel de Nata
This is a thin flaky pastry filled with egg custard flavored with cinnamon and Vanilla. One cannot miss this little cutie pie if you are in Portugal. Any bakery / pastry shop and even MCDonald’s has it in its Menu. Try this simple to make pastry and you will fall in love with it.
To have a perfect tart it has to have crispy and flaky outer layer, delicious and mild flavored egg custard. For the perfect looks, Pastel de Nata should be a little browned on top .
Ingredients:
  1. Pastry sheet – 1 (approx 40*20cm)
  2. Egg – 2(only the yellow)
  3. Milk -300 ml(Full fat milk)
  4. Sugar – 5 Tbs
  5. cinnamon powder – 1/2 tsp
  6. Corn starch – 2 Tbs
  7. Vanilla essence – few drops

Method:

1. Sprinkle 1/4 of Cinnamon powder on the pastry sheet and try to roll it to a long roll. ( I do this to get a thick layer of pastry rounds ,as my pastry sheet which was thin)

2. Cut this rolls in to 12 equal parts.

3. Take each one of these parts and keep them,  facing one of the cut part touching the board . Roll them to a small circle ,so that it fits in to the muffin molds.

4. Place the rolled circle pastry to the tins and adjust them to fit to the sides of the mold using your finger.

Egg Custard preparation Method:

1. Add 250 ml milk to the pan and heat it until it begins to boil.

2. In another bowl add egg yellow, sugar, corn starch and remaining 50ml milk and beat it well, so that there is no lumps.

3. Now slowly add this egg mixture to the milk and keep stirring.

4. When you notice the mixture gets thickening, switch of the stove and add 1/4 of cinnamon and Vanilla essence.

5. Allow the egg custard to cool and fill this mixture to the prepared pastry sheets in the tin.

6. Bake it for 15 min in at 180 deg in a preheated oven and another 10 min with the same temp in grill mode to achieve the dark color on top.

 

Almond cake with Almond Sweet Icing (Happy Bday my dear Hubby!!)

23 Nov

Almond Cake with Coffee Butter cream Frosting & Almond Sweet Icing.

Yet again, a special day in our Family. Its Birthday time !!! We celebrated Kesav’s  Birthday yesterday with this Gorgeous Almond Cake. This time too I want to make a special cake for my hubby dear, something completely different from what I have done before. Really, baking a cake and icing it, is an experience in itself.  I wanted to tryout something unique this time..something of my own… so I tried this almond cake with home made almond icing and butter cream frosting. Well, the name icing and frosting is often used interchangbely, there is not much difference. Ok…If you wonder if this is  Operah Cake?. Though this one also has almond as a main ingredient, the method and frosting for an Operah Cake is different. I will try out the Operah cake some othertime.

I would like to call my customized Almond icing on top of cake as Indian flavored Marzipan. It has less stability in making intricate designs, but tastes so much better. The traditional Marzipan is made of Almond flour and raw Egg whites. It has very good stability in making figurines. But we liked the Indian style a bit better.

Ingredients:

For Almond Cake

  1. Whole Almonds – 200gms
  2. Milk – 2 cups
  3. White Flour – 1 1/2 cup
  4. Butter – 200gms
  5. Sugar – 2 cups
  6. Egg – 6
  7. Baking Powder – 2 1/2 tsp
  8. Vanilla Essence – few drops

Almond Sweet

The recipe for Almond Sweet is here .  Instead of Rose essence, I have added  powdered Cardamom 1/2 tsp to the almond dough.

Coffee Butter Cream Icing

  1. Coffee – 2 Tbs
  2. Sugar – 100gms
  3. Butter – 50 gms

Method:

For Almond Cake

1. Blanch Almonds in hot water for 15 min and remove the skin.

2. Add the blanched almonds in milk in a blender and grind it to a smooth paste.( this yields 2 cups)

3. Add Butter and Sugar in a bowl and beat it with hand mixer.

4. Beat the egg in another bowl and the essence.  Now add the rest of the ingredients slowly one by one by beating it with hand mixer.

5. Preheat the oven to 180 C and bake it for 25 mins at 180 C.

For Butter Cream Icing

1. Add Butter in a bowl and cream it with mixer.

2. Add Sugar to it and mix it well.

3. Add 1 Tbs of hot water to instant coffee and  let it cool.

4. Add this with Sugar and Butter mixture.

Layering the Cake

1. Cut the cake horizontally in to two layers.

2. Fill Coffee butter cream icing in between the layer.

3. Roll the almond sweet dough in to a thin layer with Rolling pin and cover the cake. (Add your favorite colors as you like)

4. Add sugar decorative on top to be more attractive.

 
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Sweet September…

29 Sep

Sunflower from our garden. I was curious to capture a honey bee with the flower. To my surprise there was a bee which visits this flower every day.(not sure though was it a same bee)


September month hosts two important anniversaries in our family. One is our Wedding Anniversary and the next is Riya’s Birthday.  We decided to go to Paris to celebrate this occasion.  A busy capital city filled with full of history, tradition, modern,Fashion and what not. One place which we want to visit every time we are in Paris is the mangificient Eiffel Tower. We made it to the tower on our wedding anniversary. It was amazing to see the whole city view from top of Eiffel Tower.

A Chiffon cake with butter cream icing specially made for Riya and her KG friends.

On Riya’s Birthday, we visited Disneyland Paris. Not only for the children, even for parents it is a great place to spend a day or two. Some of the attractions Riya liked very much were Sleeping Beauty Castle, Big thunder Mountain, Little World and the Parade. The best part is whatever ride was interesting for us we did couple of times, though Riya insisted to go for more time. As the time was running,  we finished with the Parade. For children, how much fun it would be looking at their favorite cartoons dressed up beautifully and to see them in real. Mickey,Minimouse, Winnepooh and team, Disney princesses, Lion King, Mermaid and more. Riya was screaming looking at the characters and indeed was very exited to see them all. At the end of the day she doesnt want to go back home. Hope, it was a great Birthday gift  memorable for years to come.

The cake for feeding 60 people in Riya’s Bday party. Homemade sugar candy’s were turned in to garden and waiting for the final touches. Riya helped me in every layer of  cake.

This time she chose party theme as Tom & Jerry and it  is her recent most favorite Cartoon. The roses where made up of Almond sweets and Marzipan. The characters where made from Butter cream icing.

As usual, this time too Riya had celebrated  three Bdays. One with KG friends, next in Disneyland and the last one with all our friends. This September was a milestone as she turned 6 years old. she left KG and joined Primary school. In Germany it is a  tradition to send children to school with school cones, which is followed for long years. Parents has to fill up the cones with all the favorite things of  child. For Riya ,it was some chocolates,fruits, books, CD’s, toys(:-) it is a big cone). It was great to watch her and her friends carrying the school cones on the first day of school. It is already second week in school and good to see her enjoy this new world too.

Last but not least, the blog writer has been awarded a full time fun. I will very soon start to work in a popular German software company. Lot of good things in this September. Thanks to all your wishes.

 
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