Jam Butter Thumbprint Cookies

Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

As a kid, I never ate jam cookies. My brother, on the other hand, looooved them!! I remember mom buying Bourbon biscuits for me, Jim-Jam for my brother. I could never understand how he enjoyed them and I bet he kept thinking why I never enjoyed them. I found them overly sweet and didn’t particularly enjoy the jam flavor. I know that Kayani Bakery in Pune also made jam biscuits that were popular and my nephews and nieces loved them every time we would get it for them. I still didn’t enjoy them, even though I love Kayani’s other products.I think my biggest problem with jam cookies were that they are very sweet and taste rather artificial. I never thought I could ever enjoy jam cookies but this recipe surprised me! These are jam cookies for adults!

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I love the website Stumble Upon and I find it fascinating what you can find from the endless world of the Internet. I have found some great websites, which I now follow regularly, while Stumbling Upon. That’s where I found this recipe. As with all recipes, I read the negative reviews and the helpful suggestions before embarking on them. The cookies were described as buttery, less sweet with slightly chewy centers. Some people weren’t very happy that these weren’t very sweet and taste more buttery than anything else, but then they are BUTTER cookies! I was happy overall with the reviews and decided to incorporate some of the suggestions into my recipe. It also helped that I had some delicious fresh, natural, preservative- free jams in my fridge.

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This recipe is more adult-friendly, though it would look very attractive to children. This has less sugar and isn’t crispy but if you have kids who don’t like their baked goods overly sweet, its perfect!

Butter and Jam Thumbprint Cookies

Inspired by a recipe from here

Ingredients
1 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup sugar (I used a little less – 2 tbsp less)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup fruit jam

Method

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 170 degrees Celsius. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl.
In another bowl, whip the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes
Beat in the egg and vanilla, until just about combined.
Slowly fold in the dry ingredients, in 2 batches, mixing until just about incorporated.
Scoop the dough into 1-inch balls. You can roll the cookie dough balls in sugar if you wish. I did not.
Place about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.
Bake the cookies for about 7 minutes, until slightly risen. 
Pull the tray out of the oven and press a thumbprint into each cookies, about 1/2 inch deep or use a cap to make a better and uniform indentation. 
Fill each indentation with about 2/3 tsp of jam.
Return tray to oven and bake for an additional 9 minutes or until the edges of the cookies are slightly golden.
Cool cookies on the sheet for 1 minutes before transferring onto a rack,

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These tasted wonderful with coffee and tea! I dipped some of the buttery edges into my coffee and bit into them and they were deeee-licious!! The cookies absorbed the coffee flavour very well and melted in my mouth! I have already made them twice and look forward to filling the centres with many more different toppings!

Happy Baking everyone!!

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Dario’s, Koregaon Park, Pune

I don’t know how many people have heard of the webpage, GourmetItUp. I found it on Facebook and decided to try the offer they had going for Dario’s. Since it was my last day in Pune, I wanted a place somewhat closer to the airport and a place whose food I enjoyed.  Dario’s has been my favorite Italian restaurant for a while now since I love the fact that all the ingredients taste very fresh unlike another popular Italian chain whose food quality, in my opinion, has deteriorated. The atmosphere is absolutely fantastic and you feel like you have come away from the city. This restaurant is situated right next to the Osho Ashram and the outdoor section is green and very calming. There are always a lot of foreigners at this café and it is one of the few places where you can sit alone on a table and enjoy your coffee whilst reading a book.

Gorgeous Trees surrounding the restaurant.

I booked my table for Dario’s online and immediately got a confirmation email, the SMS followed in a few hours. I wanted to make sure I would get a table on the exact date, hence booked almost a week in advance. The whole process went by very smoothly and even when I had to change the reservation’s timing, it was no hitch. We reached Dario’s at about 2:30 PM and were looking for a table outside so we could enjoy the beautiful winter afternoon. The restaurant was reasonably crowded, with most of the outdoor section full. We managed to get a table under the big purple umbrella and settled in.  At Dario’s they have a separate menu that you choose from for GourmetItUP customers. You have the choice of choosing from a four course menu (Found Here) which is quite filling for two people. I love this idea of a tasting menu! I’ve been to Dario’s at least once every 6 weeks but I am a complete creature of habit. I always order the same thing over and over again (the Tobasco pizza and the ravioli in a 4 cheese sauce, with Nachos to start with) that I have never bothered looking at the menu. In this case, I had to try something totally different and I loved it! I was pushed to make a different choice.

We decided to start with the ‘Polpette di Lenticchie (lentil balls served with a spicy tomato garlic sauce) instead of a soup. These were so delicious! They were deep-fried and it has been a while since either one of us has had anything deep-fried and we completely relished them.  These had a couple of herbs packing some good flavor into them, I know I could taste some beautiful thyme and the dipping sauce added just the right amount of spice to them. As much as my brain kept telling me to stop after one, I just could not and ended up having 3! They were worth every bite.

Dario's lentil balls served with a spicy tomato garlic sauce

Dario’s lentil balls served with a spicy tomato garlic sauce

Next up was the salad. We chose the Insalata Sant’ Agata , a fresh garden salad with roasted tomatoes, rocket leaves with a lovely light dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar and mixed herbs. It was light on the palate and the stomach. The salad was very fresh and the leaves still had a little crunch. That for me is the mark of fresh vegetables. I think Dario’s serves some of the freshest food and that was evident in this salad.

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For mains, we ordered the ravioli, which was stuffed with peas and cheese, in a pink sauce with smashed peas, rosemary and chickpeas. I wasn’t really sure about this when we ordered it but all my doubts were put to rest once this came on the table. The ravioli was tender with just the tiny hint of a bite. The stuffing was lightly seasoned and had a smooth texture with the ricotta giving it just a tiny hint of richness, which went just perfect with that rich, creamy herb sauce. I’m quite sure the rosemary used was dried which gave the tiniest hit of a crunch. Now, I’m not the biggest pea fan so while I did have a few bites of the sauce with the peas, I avoided them largely. The sauce is very heavy and creamy and you do feel quite full in a few bites. Nevertheless it is quite delicious and you know you are over eating but it is just difficult to stop! I’m not very proud to admit this but, I loved soaking all of that creamy, herbed sauce up with a piece of their fresh bread and eating it. So good!

homemade pasta parcels stuffed with spinach and cheese, served with tomatoes, smashed peas and chickpeas, rosemary and cream

homemade pasta parcels stuffed with spinach and cheese, served with tomatoes, smashed peas and chickpeas, rosemary and cream

Speaking of the bread, they normally provide a complimentary bread basket to every table but for some reason you always need to ask for it! They have about 2-3 pieces of bread in the basket, depending on your table size, and I’ve always loved their herb bread (rosemary, I think). This time when we asked for the basket, he gave us a stale one for some reason but when we brought it to their notice, they replaced it with a much fresher one. The fresh breads are divine! Just give me some butter and I’ll be a happy bunny.

No meal  is complete without dessert and when you’re in an Italian restaurant, you have to order Tiramisu. I personally think Dario’s has some of the best Tiramisu in town. The cake is soaked with delicious coffee and is super moist. The mascarpone layer is rich, yet somehow airy. The sprinkling of cocoa on top helps cut the extra sweet and gives a little explosion of flavor in each bite. Sooo good! I really haven’t found a better tiramisu in Pune.

Tiramisu

Service. The only thing that’s a pain at Dario’s. For some reason the service is rather slow even though they have so many attendants running around. I’ve always found the managers more pleasant than them. It is a challenge to get anyone’s attention and I honestly don’t know why. I always prepare myself mentally to avoid getting annoyed because when I do get annoyed I can’t completely enjoy the delicious meal in front of me.

I enjoyed trying the Gourmet It Up experience because it allowed to try something other than what I normally order. There was no hitch with the bill, no hidden costs and it was plain and simple. I will definitely be going to Dario’s again and will also be trying other restaurants in the Gourmet It Up list.

Dario’s get a 3.7 out of 5 from me for the food and their service. And of course, for the yummiest Tiramisu in town!

Jimmy Hu, Koregaon Park – Pune

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I was back in Pune for a break and was happily enjoying my mani-pedi at the newly opened b:blunt in Koregaon Park. We got done around 5 pm and were wondering where we could go for a quick bite. I don’t think many people will know about this amazing, but super tiny, pizza place called Pizza Hot. It is completely negligible since he barely advertises it and a plant hides it now. They have 4 tables and can seat maximum 10 people in that space but they have some excellent pizzas! My first visit there was about 12 years ago when someone told my dad about it. At that time, there was only one Little Italy, the original one, which was in Hotel Srimaan. Little Italy too had maybe 20 odd tables. For a change, we decided to try Pizza Hot for their thin crust pizzas. We relished it completely! After that, we have gone back many times and have always been met with that smiling face offering the same, consistent quality of pizza. If you don’t mind taking home a pizza and waiting for 30 minutes for it, I highly recommend Pizza Hot!

 

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Coming back to how I found Jimmy HU, since it was 5 pm Pizza Hot wasn’t open (they open at 5:30 pm). We didn’t want to go too far and we remembered that a new place had opened where the old Yellow Chilli by Sanjeev Kapoor was. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to go and try it. At first glance, I loved that the entrance has two Vespa-like scooters parked in front. We entered and since we still had a few minutes of sunlight, we went ahead and took a table outside. We were probably 2 people of the 5 there at that time. The staff seemed busy organizing the place for the upcoming Christmas festivities. It’s a wonderful atmosphere outdoors with the all wood, red and turquoise décor. I enjoyed sitting on the high bar chairs which were surprisingly very comfortable. There are cute little knick-knacks around the place and on the tables too. The napkin holder is in the shape of a little pail and it definitely adds a burst of color to the place.  They have a Happy Hour everyday from 5:30 PM to 8:00 PM where they have some really good deals. The menu is small and does not have a lot of options. Jimmy Hu is more a pub than a restaurant and I am glad they have designed their menu in keeping with the concept. We went ahead and ordered the Barbeque Mushrooms and the Chilli Potato. They classify these as ‘Food on Sticks’. It seemed perfect for us since we weren’t really that hungry.

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It must have been surprising for the staff that we didn’t order any drinks since that is exactly the atmosphere of the place. Our server brought over some cocktails that sounded very interesting. We tried a few sips from both of them but I personally found them very sweet. But then again, I prefer beer over any drink so maybe other girls may actually enjoy these. While we were waiting for our food I wandered indoors and loved the quirkiness I saw! One entire wall is covered with doorframes! Now I love old structures and these fascinated me! They had all different kinds of wooden door frames, some that will remind you of the ones you saw at your grandparents’ house, latches, old locks and windows! I just wish there was better lighting so I could’ve taken a better picture. But it is a wonderful sight especially if you are as silly as I am. They have a good-sized bar indoors and a couple of booths which make for a very cozy atmosphere. I also adored the bright pink barrels and the little cupboard. Very eclectic and definitely makes a statement. They do have a projector and a screen and I bet the place would be very lively at the time of matches.

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After taking some not so great pictures in the very dimly lit room, I went back outside to join Amy. The food arrived just as I was settling in. The presentation was simple and clean. The mushrooms came on skewers served in glass over some salad of onions and herbs. They don’t serve plates with these, which makes them perfect pub food. They’re quite easy to eat although it isn’t very elegant. The mushrooms were cooked beautifully. They were still firm and the sauce stuck to them well. There was a hint of smokiness and the flavors all came together very well. The chilli potatoes were a disappointment. They were not marinated at all so once you bit into them they were completely bland. They were under seasoned and we had to send them back. They did add some more salt and reheated them but they were nowhere up to the mark.

 

I have mixed opinions about the food since I loved the mushrooms but found the potatoes to be quite dissatisfactory. The service was good when we were there but then again there were only 2 tables that were occupied. They were polite and courteous and a few of them knew the food well. This is one of the two places I have gone to where the hostess explains the Happy Hour offers to you without you having to ask for it. I think that’s a great step. The menu is small but perfect for a pub and is quite well-priced.

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All in all, Jimmy Hu looks like a great place to hang out with friends over a few drinks. I’m still undecided about the food but I would definitely go back here. For its quirkiness, relaxed atmosphere and delicious mushrooms, I give Jimmy Hu a 3 out of 5!

Restaurant Contact: 02030570433

Restaurant Timings: 5:30 PM – 11:30 PM

Healthy, Low-Fat and Vegan Broccoli Almond Soup

If you live in India, there are very few times you truly enjoy the warmth that a rich, hearty soup provides. Fortunately, we are having some wonderfully chilly weather here in Baroda and a soup was just what we needed. Dinners are best served outdoors and piping hot! I love winter so much and wish it’s a little longer this time. I can then think of going about my herb garden.

Broccoli was one of those things I used to detest as a kid. The green color in any food triggers the response that its going to be bitter or bland and not really that yummy. I am ashamed to admit, I still carry some of those feelings! For that reason, I rarely enjoy any green soups and go straight for a tomato soup or a mushroom soup. But, the other day, I had some broccoli in my fridge and wanted to do something with it. I wanted something that wouldn’t taste very broccoli-like (Go figure!). I decided to try to make a broccoli-almond soup that seems to be on every menu in India. When I Googled it, the recipes all contained cream or a roux base (butter and flour base) which just didn’t sound healthy and just didn’t appeal to me. After a lot of searching, I found a recipe that worked perfectly for me! With a few changes, I made this into a healthy, low-fat, vegan soup. It is very lightly flavored and is very easy to make! Even the most inexperienced cannot fail at this!

Broccoli-Almond Soup

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

6-8 almonds

5 cups vegetable stock (Make your own!)

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Method

  • Heat the oil in a non-stick pot on a medium-low flame. Once the oil is hot, add the garlic and the onions.
  • Fry until fragrant and the onions have become translucent, about 6 minutes.
  • Next, add the almonds into the oil and stir them around for 30 seconds.
  • Finally add the broccoli florets and stir them with the oil for about one and a half minutes or until they take on a beautiful green shade.
  • Add the 5 cups of vegetable stock to the broccoli mix and cover the pot with the lid. Allow it to come to a boil and leave on a medium-low flame for 8-10 minutes or until the broccoli is tender.
  • Turn the flame off and allow the mix to cool.
  • Once cooled, add the mix, in batches, in a blender and blend until smooth
  • Return the smooth mixture back to the heat. Season with salt and plenty of fresh pepper.
  • Once the soup has heated, ladle into bowls and serve.

Note: If the soup is too thick for your liking, simply add some more vegetable stock. If you don’t seem to have more vegetable stock on hand, heat 1 cup of water and add 1/2 tsp of mixed herbs like dried garlic powder, rosemary, parsley, mint, oregano or Italian Seasoning. Allow the water to come to a boil and turn the flame off. Cover with a lid and let it sit for about 5 minutes for the herbs to flavor the water. Drain the water and use the flavored water to thin the soup out.

Happy Cooking everyone!

 

 

Mandap, Express Hotel – Baroda

Thalis. The name itself scares me because of the sheer amount of food that is put in front of you! I am also a little scarred by the experience that I’ve had where you have 15 servers hovering around you trying to dump things in your plate. It’s a little scary for a little to sit with a giant plate, 10 bowls and 15 people trying to fill up your plate as though it was the Guinness Book of World Records for the fastest plate serving! It also didn’t help that we would eat Gujarati food everyday at home and a thali place did not provide us with any novelty. I think I must have been to 2 thali places and that scarred me enough to never go back.

 

Coming to present day, we had a friend visiting Baroda and we were wondering where we could go for a nice lunch. He wanted to eat some Gujarati food and the only place that S knew of serving good Gujarati food was Mandap in Express Hotel.  I put aside my fears of a thali restaurant and we went ahead. Express Hotel was one of the first hotels that were set up in Baroda. They were the first ones to introduce éclairs and croissants in the city through their bakery. S also tells me that he’s been going to their restaurants since he was a kid and he has seen the servers age while they have seen him grow! I find that story absolutely adorable. Its kind of like the story I have in a Pune restaurant called Vaishali that we used to frequent so much that a lot of the servers knew our orders! Always good to be where people recognize you..

 

The restaurant has a lot of wood. They have old wooden jharokhas or windows decorating the walls, cloth tied up above tables to give you the feeling that you are in a tent, ‘sankheda’ chairs and wooden tables. I loved the thalis! Unlike a lot of other places that serve stainless steel thalis, their plates are made of ‘kaansa’ or bell metal. They are a light golden-ish color and you have the same kind of bowls and spoons. A refreshing change.  At the center of the tables, there is a dish with all kinds of condiments to help enhance the flavor of your meals. So colorful and beautiful! There was the standard mixed pickle, some fried chillies, fried capsicum, lemon wedges, imli chutney and green chutney. The colors were gorgeous and it all looked very inviting.

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As soon you enter and sit down, you are served plain chhaas and a mocktail. The mocktail, on the day we went, was ‘Blue Lagoon’. I typically don’t like it so did not bother to try it either. The chhaas was nice. Plain, with salt, and thin, like a gujarati chhaas. Very refreshing. As it is with all thali places, hoards of servers come asking you 50 questions to a minute, holding out all kinds of food! We were starting off with the quintessential Gujarati farsan, patra and samosas. The patras were ok, a little too firm and thick but the samosas were yummy! Simple potato filling, nothing fancy, just well fried and well-seasoned.

 

The person handing out vegetables followed the farsan. We had four vegetables- Punjabi Chhole, drumsticks in besan gravy, potato and peas vegetable and ladyfingers! It might seem strange to have chhole on a gujarati thali, but I really like the idea because I do not always enjoy all the Gujarati vegetables. This makes it possible to eat something that can be quite tasty. The chhole was good- nothing extraordinary but nothing to complain about either. The aloo-mutter subzi had a nice balance of spices and had a little bit of clear gravy. Normally this vegetable is very oily wherever I have had it before but this time, it wasn’t that bad. I actually appreciated the fact that most of things were lower in oil, comparatively. I love bhindi and was so glad to see some on my plate! Well cooked, and a little spicy but tasted good when eaten with the roti. My favorite was the drumstick vegetable! It is a ploy to put drumsticks on your plate because I don’t know of anyone who would be able to eat the drumsticks in a dignified manner outside. In any case, I love the besan gravy – spicy, tangy, sweetish and rich. I am a huge fan of anything made from besan so maybe my opinion is biased, but I still think it was very well made.

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Next came the person with the dals! If you’re in Gujarat, and eating a Gujarati thali, you have to have kadhi! Mandap offers your four choices of dals and kadhi and you can choose 2. Since we are Gujaratis and have the same flavored dal and kadhi at home every time, I went ahead and asked for the ‘Punjabi’ dal and kadhi. I put Punjabi in inverted commas because it is not really a Punjabi kadhi! I think its just kadhi and dal that has a little less sugar or jaggery, and has some more garam masala. I enjoyed it a lot more than the Gujarati kadhi or dal. I do think the Gujarati kadhi must have been really good because a friend relished a couple of cups! He said that it was the perfect impression he had of Gujarati kadhi – sweet and tangy.

 

After we were served the vegetables and our dals and kadhis, we were served rotis and theplas. The theplas are the cutest I have ever seen! They’re small, almost like mini puris, and thick! They were really tasty and I have never had anything like them. They had ghee rotis but when we asked for plain, they were happy to oblige.

 

Now my favorite part – the desserts! We had so many choices, I felt utterly lost. There some gajar ka halwa, gulab jamun, fruits in a custard sauce and ras malai. I decided to stick to the gajar ka halwa and the gulab jamun. The gulab jamun was not good. The syrup was fine, but the gulab jamun itself was very dense and heavy and was quite thick in the center. They were very passable. The gajar ka halwa on the other hand, was very good -Not very sweet, just right and rich. It didn’t have too many dry fruits, was pure and simple. I loved the consistency and sweetness in it and enjoyed it more because it was warm. The perfect winter dish!

 

The service at Mandap is better, it’s a slightly more fine dining place. The waiters are courteous and don’t look hurried. They will not give you 5 seconds to choose and then move on. They do a better job of pouring things in the correct bowls and don’t make it look like a mess, like other thali places. I have been told this is not the best thali experience you can get and there are others that are better, but I was extremely satisfied with this experience and the food.

 

For making me enjoy going to a thali restaurant, I give Mandap a 3.5 on 5!

Restaurant Timings: 12:00 pm-3 pm and 7:30 pm – 10:30 pm

Restaurant Contact: 0265-3055000