Jun 23, 2010

Coconut Milk & Hazelnuts Laddu

Sometimes the routine of your day just stops, and time stands still because you have to be focused on one thing only. Those were our last few days when my son was very sick, and that is why my last post got so delayed.

With a terribly humid and hot weather outside, and a high fevered boy by my side, I feel I should have released this week a recipe for granita or popsicles... but I took these photos last week and I really wanted to share this recipe for those little Indian sweats called Laddu.

I got acquainted with Laddu thanks to Niv, my brother in law, who made them for me for my last birthday. He mixed roasted semolina flour, coconut, sugar, nuts and a bit of milk to make sugary and sandy balls, beautifully wrapped in a clear bowl. It’s such a wonderful thought to make or bake something for someone’s birthday.

I have never tasted Laddu before, and was immediately hooked by the chance to experiment with it and mix it with different tastes and ingredients. It is very easy to make, and you can easily change the kind of flour, nuts or amount of sugar in the recipe. The secret, as Niv pointed out, is to make the Laddu with different textures inside. I took his recipe and added white chocolate, petit beurre biscuits and coconut milk for extra coconut flavor. Mine turned out less sandy and a bit more wet than the original version, and the consistency quite dense and full of nutty texture from the crushed hazelnuts and almonds. I love the combination of coconut and white chocolate, which was kind of my excuse for making these in the first place.

I found out that Laddus are considered a festive treat at celebrations of births and weddings, and that Lord Ganesh, the Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles, is a huge fan! Make these for any celebration, you can also just serve one at a coffee break or with a cup of milk, and your sugar cravings are fulfilled for the day...

Jun 9, 2010

Blueberry Muffin & The City

My first blueberry muffin was a love at first sight. Long before the Carrie Bradshaw’s cupcake trend I had the “muffin mania”, and made dozens of muffins in every chance I could. I have tasted my first blueberry muffin when I was twelve years old and visiting the “Big Apple” with my Dad on my big Bat Mitzvah trip around America. I bet every memory is somehow selective, and I’m sure that this muffin would not taste today as it did back then..., but something in that moment was very special, as I was just discovering New York City for the first time, and just like the blueberry muffin, I fell in love. Today, after many long and short visits, a lot of Woody Allen’s movies, some academic essay writings and countless storytelling from my big brother, who lived to tell the tale of his stay there, I can surely say it was more than a fling.

I think I love New York City so much because it’s somehow unreachable, always a bit foreign , but yet so familiar and makes you feel right at home. Just the city’s spatial proportions makes me feel alive more than any other place I know. Maybe the glorification I make for it would have vanished some if I was to stay there for a long period of time, and then the magic would turn into routine and claustrophobia.

In a weird way it’s the same with blueberries. Eating that muffin in a small diner for breakfast was my first encounter with those amazing berries. Coming back home when I was twelve, there weren’t any fresh blueberries to find, and even today they are very hard to come by, and are quite expensive. Our Israeli climate makes it hard to grow them and they can mostly be grown upnorth. Every month of May I wait for the small, overpriced, half filled plastic boxes so I can make my muffins with fresh berries. Frozen ones are always a good option, but it’s not the same.

Even though I really wished we could have bushes of blueberries in our backyards, and make whole tarts, pies, jams of it without feeling financially guilty, I know it would have taken some of the magic away...

I’ve tried countless flavors of muffins, but the classic one with blueberries wins them all. This is my all times muffin recipe, which I always twist and change to make better. I love the combination with orange zest, and try not to make them too sweet so they can be great for breakfast too. Always eat fresh! If necessary, freeze well covered, and reheat in the oven.