If you've been reading this blog for a long time, or if you've been tracking the Daring Bakers for a while, you may remember Aparna from the awesome tiramisu challenge. So when I saw that she was the host, I was super excited.
But when I read the challenge, I will admit that I became a little bit... concerned. The challenge consists of three recipes - a cake and two different styles of cookies. The requirement for successful completion of the challenge was to make the cake and at least one of the cookies.
So why was this concerning? Mawa, as it turns out, is milk that has been reduced by simmering it until all that remains are the solids. Which means that the main component of this cake is something that little man can't eat. And I really don't like to make things, especially treats, that he can't enjoy with us.
I seriously considered sitting this one out. Seriously.
But I have never done that before, and I am not about to start now.
My sister happened across a blog post for a vegan variation of mawa cake and Aparna gave us the green light to go for it, so I did. Yesterday. Oh yeah, nothing like waiting until the last minute.
Instead of mawa, the vegan (allergen free, for me...) version uses vegan cream cheese.
But, just like the "real" version, the flavoring for this cake comes from cardamom. Now, I am not all that familiar with cardamom. I bought it and used it for the biryani challenge, that was easy - just take a couple of pods and toss them in the pan. For this cake, you need only the seeds from inside the pods.
And those seeds then need to be crushed (I used a spice grinder), then added to the dry ingredients of the cake.
But other than those two "special" ingredients, this cake is actually very easy and straightforward to prepare. The thick batter is spread into a pan (I used a cake pan instead of a springform pan - it's what I have)...
...then baked for an hour until dark golden and super fragrant.
My cake was extremely flavorful with the cardamom, which was a big hit with me and little man, less so with daddy and little miss.
Hey, a 50% approval rating for a brand new recipe isn't bad, right?
The texture was really nice, though, so I am considering playing with the recipe a bit to flavor it in a way that will be more appealing to the entire family.
But the mawa cake was only half of the challenge. Remember, Aparna said that we had to make one of the given recipes for cookies, as well. My first choice was to make the coconut cookies - they sound flavorful and delicious. But I was running low on coconut, and they take a couple of days to make. And with the procrastination I had going on this month, a couple of days was... yeah, I waited too long.
The other cookie recipe was for savory spice cookies. As written, these biscuits, more like crackers, really, are full of spice and Indian flavors.
The base recipe is relatively similar to other crackers I've made. Dry ingredients are whisked together, then butter is cut in.
This is the point where the spices are added. And this is where I adjusted the recipe to suit my family's tastes. I omitted the green chilies, and used spices that my family likes - garlic powder, thyme, parsley and oregano (okay, so... these are... Italian inspired Indian crackers...). Little man helped me scoop the spices.
He had fun with it, because I let him scoop a lot, so that these would be chock full of flavor.
The dough is then worked together, using yogurt (I used coconut milk plain Greek style yogurt) as the wet ingredient binder. Once the dough can hold together, mold it into a disc and pop it into the fridge.
If you want the real chronology of events, I actually made the dough in the morning, then prepared the mawa cake while the dough rested in the fridge. Yeah, I had a busy baking day yesterday.
Once the dough has thoroughly chilled, roll it out, sprinkle it with sesame seeds (I used my seven seed mix), use the rolling pin to press the seeds in a bit, and cut out your crackers.
Now, I have to apologize - I don't have many pictures of the completed crackers.
I was too busy eating them. These are addictive. Perfectly crisp and deliciously flavorful, I just kept eating them. And considering that you can choose any spices you want, you can really use the base recipe to make any kind of treat you are in the mood for. Pretty cool!
Aparna, thank you for this challenge - I am so glad that I wised up and participated!
To see the full recipes as provided in the challenge, you can check them out here.
And to see the delicious cakes and biscuits baked up in the kitchen this month, take a look here.
Vegan Mawa Cake
(from Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes)
1 1/3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon powdered cardamom (the seeds from green cardamom pods, crushed with a mortar and pestle or ground in a spice grinder)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup soy milk (I used coconut milk) plus 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar. Mix and set aside to curdle for a few minutes. I promise, it will curdle.
1/4 (4 tablespoons) cup vegan cream cheese, like Tofutti, at room temperature.
1/2 cup or 8 tbsp vegan butter like Earth Balance, also at room temperature (I used coconut oil).
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray an 8 inch cake pan (or springform pan, if you have the right size) with non-stick cooking spray.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and whisk it all togehter. Add the cardamom powder and whisk again. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the vegan butter (coconut oil) and the sugar until light and fluffy, for no more than 2 minutes (at medium speed). Add the vegan cream cheese and beat until just mixed. Do not overbeat.
Mix in the vanilla extract.
Add the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the curdled soy (coconut) milk, beating in well after each addition so there are no lumps. Scrape down the bowl after each addition.
Spread batter into prepared cake pan, smoothing the top carefully.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven about an hour until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Cool on a rack. Mawa cakes are never frosted, so all you have to do now is eat it.
(based on the Masala Biscuits from the challenge)
1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons fine rice flour (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried parsley
3 to 4 tablespoons cold yogurt (I used coconut milk yogurt, plain)
1-1/2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or white sesame seeds) (I used a prepared seed mix)
A little oil to brush the tops of the biscuits/ cookies
Whisk together both flours, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a bowl and add the pieces of chilled butter. Cut or rub the butter into the dried ingredients until the mixture resembles the texture of breadcrumbs.
Add in all of your spices and mix to incorporate.
Add 2 tablespoons of the yogurt mix to combine. Continue adding the yogurt, one tablespoon at a time, mixing as you go, until the dough just comes togehter. Kneat the dough until it is just moist enough to hold together and shape into a ball. Flatten the ball into a disc and cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least hour. You can also leave it overnight (up to about 24 hours) and work on it the next day.
When you are ready to prepare the biscuits, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and line your baking trays with parchment, a silicone baking mat, or grease them with oil.
Lightly dust your working surface with flour and roll out the dough to 1/8” thickness, not more or your biscuits/ cookies will not be crisp. Sprinkle the seeds uniformly over the dough and use your rolling pin to very lightly, to press them in.
Using cutters of your choice, cut out biscuits/crackers and place them on the prepared baking trays. Brush a very thin coat of oil over them (I actually sprayed them with non-stick cooking spray). This will help them brown while baking.
Bake the crackers in the preheatd oven for about 20 to 25 minutes or till they’re done and golden brown on the top. Remember the baking time will depend on the thickness and shape of your biscuits/ cookies. Let them cool on the trays for about 5 minutes and then cool them on racks. Once they’re completely cool, they should be a bit crunchy and not chewy.