……and I learnt how to pipe and frost

I am happy to announce that I completed the last of my culinary bucketlist items yesterday. So the 2 posts that would follow after this one would be all about my culinary bucketlist for this year and I have quite some stories to tell.

At the risk of repeating myself over and over again, I  have to say this again, when you truly want something the Universe will find a way to make it happen. Given my hectic work schedule it was nearly impossible for me to attend any piping classes because most of them happen either in the morning or in the afternoon. Since I am not the most artistic person on earth, I could never grasp the subtle art of piping by watching youtube videos. Must I also add, I never had a lot of patience to do so either. So the piping exercise on my bucketlist seemed like the most daunting one for all the reasons mentioned above. But then like I said – the Universe came to my rescue. Through a colleague of mine, I stumbled across Gehna’s wonderous Facebook page. I gasped and sighed at the beautiful piping work and the creative fondant work that Gehna has showcased on her page. I made up my mind to ask her to help me out. Even if it meant I had to beg and plead.

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A rosette with a 2D star tip

Well, I didn’t have to do any of that. Gehna was kind enough to oblige and she offered to help me with the basics. Gehna runs a home cake baking business in Bahrain. Her Facebook page will give you details of how you can contact her. Her specialty is eggless cakes and her pretty fondant ‘concept’cakes/cupcakes. Make sure you check her facebook page and book orders with her for your next big celebration. I guarantee you that you wouldn’t be disappointed.

Bouquet with a 18 star tip
Bouquet with a 18 star tip

Now back to my piping class-

Gehna and I spent nearly 3 hours going over the basic piping and frosting concepts. I learnt essential basics like :

  • How to fill a piping bag;
  • How to hold it and maneuver it;
  • The different types of piping tips and the effect that they produce such as the
  1. Star tips – 1 m , 2D, 18, 21 ( are useful to make rosettes, bouquets and shells etc)
  2. Round tips – 2, 12 ( make rose buds and beads)
  3. leaf tip – 352 ( leaf designs)
  4. petal tips- 104 ( rose petals)
  • The different types of support paraphernalia meant for piping such as – nails, stoppers, couplers, turntables etc.;
  • How to pipe – ofcourse!
  • Practiced different designs over and over again;
  • Learnt how to pipe cupcakes with designs that would suit them;
  • Learnt how to ‘crumb coat’ a cake before frosting it;
  • Made decorative chocolate flowers; – my favourite!
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Shell design (left hand side) and petal design (right hand side)

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Chocolate Rose in bloom
Chocolate Rose in bloom

Frosting the cake and then decorating it with chocolate roses and sprinkles
Frosting the cake and then decorating it with chocolate roses and sprinkles

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There are various technical points to be kept in mind while piping such as the angle at which you would hold the piping bag, the amount of pressure to be given, the distance between the cupcake /cake and the piping tip, the consistency of the buttercream/frosting etc. A 3 hour session was like a movie trailer for me; just enough to whet my appetite. With Gehna’s help and guidance, I felt confident that I am not completely hopeless as I thought I was. I feel inspired to do a ‘Wilton cake decorating’ course in the future when I have some time on my hands but in the meanwhile, I can hone my newly acquired piping skills by practicing as much as I can on the cakes and the cupcakes that I bake at home.

A big thank you to you, Gehna. I am grateful that you ever so kindly agreed to help me cross this tough one off my culinary bucket list. I dedicate this post to you. Cheers to your future cake empire!!

P.S. you are yet to let me know what you want!

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Bahrain’s 42nd National Day celebration with Baklawa

Bahrain celebrated its 42nd National Day on the 16th of December. The entire island country is painted in the colours of red and white – the colours of the National flag. At night, it is a spectacular display of red and white lights which illuminate every road and building and turn it into something like a set from a Baz Luhrmann movie. However busy our lives might be, it is difficult not to get caught into the whole festive spirit of the nation. We enjoyed our long awaited 2 day off (16th and 17th December) from work and packed it with exciting things to do. Most of the restaurants were running  discount in the honour of the National Day and the Accession Day (17th of December). Most of the malls were jam packed with people shopping and dining. There were bands playing and entertaining the crowds too.

We managed to savour some authentic Bahraini breakfast at the Saffron in Muharraq. They have a set menu that they never change and despite that they are ever so popular. The breakfast is an extended affair so be prepared to be served courses after courses of wonderfully unique breakfast savories and sweets and breads. All this washed down with cups and cups of hot, karak tea.

Breakfast at Saffron, Muharraq
Breakfast at Saffron, Muharraq

On the personal accomplishment front, I managed to tick off two items from my culinary bucket list for the year during the mid – week holiday. One of them was baking my favourite dessert – The Baklava and the other was learning how to pipe. The piping post will follow soon.

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Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey. The Baklava is normally prepared in large pans. Many layers of phyllo sheets, separated with melted butter, are laid in the pan. A layer of chopped nuts are also sometimes used is placed on top, then more layers of phyllo. So you have alternate layers of phyllo sheets and chopped nuts. Before baking, the dough is cut into regular pieces, often parallelogram, triangles, or rectangles.

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A syrup, which may include sugar, honey or rose scented or orange scented syrup is poured over the baked baklava and allowed to soak in for many hours. Baklava is usually served at room temperature, often garnished with ground nuts. I attempted the Turkish baklava which is traditionally  made by filling pistachios, walnuts and almonds  between the layers of phyllo dough soaked in cold orange-lemon sugar-honey syrup.

I used the recipe from the Purple Foodie’s blog.

I was less than satisfied with my attempt and wouldn’t mark it as a roaring success. After baking and post soaking the phyllo+nuts filling with the citrus scented syrup, the phyllo layers were quite flaky and not soft from the syrup. But from a taste perspective, it was beyond delicious. After much contemplation and reflection I realized my folly. I finished the ritual of laying down sheets of phyllo and buttered them with melted butter and then a layer of nuts on top and let it rest for more than 2 hours before putting it in the oven to bake. The butter sheets hardened and after became quite crisp. So if you attempt this recipe which is seriously amazing – DO NOT LET THE BAKLAVA REST FOR MORE THAN 15 mins and immediately put it in the oven to bake!!!

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Despite that technical hitch, I shall confidently cross of the Baklava off my Culinary Bucket list and move forward to attempt the next one.

Here I share some random pictures from in and around my visits to different places in Bahrain and the interesting things that caught my eye.

The local Superman
The local Superman
The traditional Spice Market /Souq in Muharraq
The traditional Spice Market /Souq in Muharraq

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A traditional kebab shop
A traditional kebab shop
Arabic Bread baking in a traditional bread shop
Arabic Bread baking in a traditional bread shop
fish monger
fish monger
Arabic Coffee flask
Arabic Coffee flask
Traditional Coffee shop
Traditional Coffee shop
Kebab
Kebab

A very rich fruit cake – Happy Christmas and Happy Holidays

It is still a few days until Christmas, but the nip in the air makes you feel like it is here already. Christmas is a state of mind. It’s about tinsels, gifts, families getting together, mince pies, eggnog and all kinds of indulgences. I believe indulgence is absolutely necessary and special days like Christmas are just for that. My fondest memories of Christmas involve sampling pieces of fruit cake – laden with almonds, walnuts, glaced cherries, candied fruit and raisins.

 

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Every year on Christmas we decorate a Christmas tree at home. My daughter waits anxiously for Christmas mornings to see what Santa has got for her this time. This year she has wished for a Ballet dress and shoes because she has been a good girl throughout the year. Let’s see if Santa thinks so too.

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The fruit cake is seriously quite rich and a small slice really goes a long way. My recipe for this fruit cake was featured in the Decembers Christmas Special issue of the Bahrain Confidential 

_Christmas Confidential BC Dec2013 (1)The recipe is as follows:

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The preparation is a bit time consuming with all the chopping of the dried fruits and nuts but the result is absolutely worth it. Since it stays good for 2 months, this indulgent fruit cake can be enjoyed for a very long time.

The spirit of Christmas is very addictive and sometimes I wish we could bottle up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every now and then. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

A Macaroon Masterclass at Culina Bahrain

How many of you believe in the law of attraction?

I do completely and have done so way before ‘The Secret ” or any such book came about. It was a quiet sort of an understanding I developed while growing up where I believed that if I wished too hard, what I imagined may most definitely come true. As a child it meant, squeezing my eyes as tight as possible, stopping my breath for a bit ,focusing hard on the subject and wishing very, very hard. In that moment of focus I could clearly imagine it coming true and lo, behold it did!! (well, most of the times). When it didn’t I conveniently forgot about the wish and got on to wishing for something else. Somehow in my growing up I have left behind my innocent musing and wishing technique. I do not squeeze my eyes, don’t stop breathing and I don’t focus too hard anymore.

But when I got this email from Fabrice of Culina asking me if I would like to do a Macaroon class…I squeezed my eyes shut and stopped breathing. I didn’t have to focus very, very hard because my wish had already come true. If you have been following this blog you would know I have been obsessed with my bucket list lately. One item on the list filled me with great fear – Macaroons. Oftentimes I thought I have taken on way more than I can handle. But then Universe has its own sweet way to bring to you what you so fervently want. And the Universe knew I was scared of the task and I needed help which came in the form of Fabrice’s invite to attend his infinitely enjoyable Macaroon Masterclass.

The class was to be at the end of a work day. Despite that, none of the trials and tribulations at the work front could dim my excitement of attending the class. I arrived a bit late due to some insane traffic problems to find that the class was already in progress.

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The Chef conducting the class was none other than Fabrice. With his infectious enthusiasm it was difficult to keep any reservations ( not that I had any) towards getting on with the task on hand.

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All the attendees were given their own copies of Macaroon recipes and we were free to choose our equipment from the handsomely equipped kitchen at Culina. The pantry was stocked with all kinds of chocolates and other baking staples. I chose to make the Chocolate Mocha Macaroons and under the expert guidance of Fabrice, quickly made the chocolate ganache filling and kept it aside to cool. He told all the tips and tricks required to make any macaroon baking attempt a success.

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CMM4Starting from the right way to measure ingredients,  to mix the dry ingredients, the do’s and don’ts with respect to mixing the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients – Fabrice told us all. To make the shell of the macaronage /shell of the macaroons, he gave us individual attention till we all got our macaroons in the oven.

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Piping was another aspect of Macaroon making that filled me with dread. I don’t have the most delicate way of going about this exercise and am a master at making a mess… and a mess I made. But I piped, nevertheless. Tiny shells blossomed into shiny ones once they were baked.  Once the shells cooled down, we piped the filling into the macaronage/shell marking the end of our endeavour.

In my write up, I may have made it sound easy but it is far from it. Macaroon is perhaps one of the most technical recipe I have ever tried. If I would have attempted making them  on my own, I would have most certainly failed. Now, armed with the Culina experience, I can imagine attempting Macaroons at home.

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As for the recipe, we attempted the Italian meringue recipe which makes amazing Macaroons. To see our Macaroons find their feet/crown was a culinary joy equal to no other. All the Masterclass participants ooh-ed and aah-ed over the end result. Ofcourse none of this would have been possible without Fabrice’s expertise and engaging teaching style.

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The class lasted for 3.5 hours and it was a blast! I made some friends who are just as mad about baking as I am. Plus a certificate at the end of the course was like the cherry on the proverbial cake.

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For all who are interested to try, the recipe is as follows:

Chocolate Mocha Macaroon

Ingredients

Ingredients for the filling

250 gms dark chocolate  53%

50 gms dark chocolate 70%

320 gms liquid cream

1 tsp Nescafe

60 gms butter, room temperature

 Ingredients for the shell

Macaronage- Part 1

270 gms almond powder

300 gms icing sugar

100 gms egg whites

30 gms cocoa powder

8-10 drops of red food colour

Part 2

110 gms egg whites

300 gms custard sugar

80 gms water

Preparation

Prepare the filling first

  1. Boil the cream with Nescafe
  2. Pour on the two chocolates and mix well till the chocolate dissolves.
  3. Then add the butter and allow it to cool down before you can pipe it. We put it in a refrigerator for the time it took to make the macaronage.

Preparing the Shell

  1. Sift the almond powder and dry in the oven for 45 minutes at 100 C before use. This is to remove any moisture that might be trapped in the almond powder.
  2. Sift the icing sugar and the cocoa powder and mix together with the almond powder. It would be easier to do it with your hands. We were provided vinyl gloves to do this. Make sure all the three are thoroughly incorporated
  3. Add the egg whites (100 gms ) and the red food colouring in the almond mixture. Thorough mix it to form a slightly hard dough and keep it aside.
  4. Heat water and sugar in a sauce pan and use a candy thermometer to check the temperature.
  5. Pour the remaining egg whites (110 gms) in the mixer and wait till the sugar – water mixture shows a temperature of 115 C. When it reaches 115 C, start the mixer and beat the egg whites at high speed.
  6. Let the sugar-water mixture cook until it reaches 121 C( and strictly not more)and take it off the heat and pour the hot sugar syrup into the mixer that contains the egg whites (beaten).
  7. Beat the meringue until it is cold ( or atleast until room temperature). You can test the temperature by touching the base of the mixer container.
  8. Add the fluffy meringue mixture into the Macaronage in two times and mix well. I thought it was slightly strenuous but the dough that was very tough to start with became soft and pliable by the time I had finished.
  9. Pipe the mixture with 9mm piping tip over a silpat or parchment paper spaced 3 cm from each other.
  10. Bake at 140 C for 12 mins precisely.
  11. Let it rest to cool down or alternately or you can refrigerate it for some time
  12. With the help of a piping bag pipe the filling into one half of the macaronage and use the other to sandwich the filling.

About the Institute

One of its kind in Bahrain that is professional in every aspect of its operations and a brain child of Chef Alain Michel and Chef Fabrice Perrin

Culina is as much for  budding cooks/bakers as it is for the seasoned ones to learn the new tricks of the trade.

They have imported all the latest equipment from France and Italy that only professional Chefs use at work which would be available to students

Culina will ensure that once you enroll you will have the opportunity to explore a world of over 20 global cuisines—from the classics to those emerging in popularity

Some of the courses Culina offers are – Basic Training Kitchen, Bakery & Confectionery, Quantity Training Kitchen, Advanced Training Kitchen and Advanced Bakery & Pastry

(info from – www.culinabahrain.com)

For further enquiries, you can contact

Culina Cooking Art

Bulding No:715,Block 701
Road No:122, Tubli, P.O.Box: 616, Bahrain

phone: 17178951

fax: 17178952

email:info@culinabahrain.com

Facebook- www.facebook.com/culinacookingart

You can contact their Office From 8AM – 9PM

Bahrain International Design Week – GO NOW!!! #BAHRAIN

Celebrate . Connect . Grow.

Those are words that resonate with the all new Bahrain International Design Week (BIDW, 2013 ) that debuted on the 1st of December. The idea behind BIDW is to provide a platform for designers and creative people in the Middle East. It is also a platform that will be visited by buyers, investors, developers, collectors and the public. BIDW showcases three main areas covering design on the personal, architectural/interior and other creative services angle

I was given this opportunity to write about the event that spans over a week starting 1st of December to the 7th of December, 2013. It is exciting for me personally to be a part of this national event as I get to witness and document my observations of the creative best in the region.

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The event is being held at the  Bahrain International Exhibition Centre (between 10 am to 10 pm). I went last evening (Thursday, the 5th of Dec) and found myself amazed at the cutting edge innovation and creativity enclosed in one place. I tried to capture a few snapshots of the display that caught my eye.

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Some of the local talent is remarkable. I had a chance to chat with Noof  Alresaei (instagram : @noowood) whose coco cola bottle creations and the torso of man with a lampshade for a head were quite popular for the evening. Do follow her to see her other creations.

The other popular tents for the evening were the clothes and the jewellery display for obvious reasons. Many international designers and universities have also been invited to participate. This is an opportunity for the creative lot of Bahrain to connect with some of the international exhibitors.

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The event also hosted the fashion show showcasing jewelry and some speeches from the who’s who in the design field. For more information please do visit the website at www.bidw.com
Facebook: BahrainInternationalDesignWeek
Twitter: @BIDW2013
Instagram: @BIDW2013

We have 2 more days of BIDW to enjoy and I urge all of you to come and take a look at what BIDW has to offer.

In the end, I would like to commend the efforts made by A1 Services for organizing this event and  the PR agency TalentFreeFlow for promoting it so successfully. (@talentfreeflow on FB, twitter and instagram)

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