4 steps to make a perfectly braided pastry

Whether sweet or savory filling, braided pastry serves as a gorgeous entrée for a party or easy dinner for those cold lazy winter. Crank up the oven, prep the frozen ready-to-use sheets, add fillings of your choice, make a fancy braid, and while you sit back and relax, watch the heat do its magic as crispy layered pastry is baked to perfection.
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Step 1: Prepping
Preheat the oven to 350 F or 180 C. Dust flour on working area, place the pastry sheet, apply oil/butter and egg wash. For Egg wash and its outcome see guidelines here. I used  1 egg whites diluted with 2 tbsp of water.
Step 2: Filling
Sweet: Apple Cinnamon puff pastry
Sliced apple, use green apple if you prefer the tart, sautéed to caramelize in medium heat with butter and cinnamon power. Add sugar/maple syrup or get creative and layer it with Nutella.
Savory: Spinach Ricotta Puff Pastry
Minced filling works best. A good vegetarian option is pan-fried onion, garlic with a bunch of spinach and a nice layer of ricotta/ feta cheese and seasoning.
puff pastry cinnamon
Step 3: Braid 
Add your filling to prepped pastry sheet, cut slices both side diagonally, like below. Begin braiding and coating with egg wash/water to hold the braid together.
apple puff pastry
Step 4: Baking
Once the oven is preheated to the desired temperature, slide the pastry sheet onto buttered baking tray or use a parchment baking paper. Pop it into the oven for 15-20 mins, watch pastry puff up and the top layer turns golden brown. Once done, set aside for 5 mins to cool down and serve immediately.
puff pastry
The ingredients for this recipe can be easily found at your local grocery store; for my Aussie reader, make a visit to Aldi or Coles.
You will need:
Puff pastry sheets
Egg white – 1
Flour & oil/butter for preparation
Sweet Filling – Apple – 2, cinnamon 1 tsp, Sugar -2 tbsp
Savory Filling – Chopped Spinach 1/2 a bunch, Onion – 1, garlic – 2 pods, Cheese(ricotta/feta) 1/2 cup and salt & seasoning as per taste.
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Wake up Cookie monster! Chocolate chip cookies

Making a comeback to blogging with the most popular recipe ever! Everyone wants to try it and a few have mastered it, yes…. the perfect chocolate chip cookie, crispy on the outside soft and chewy in the inside; the one that melts like butter when you take your first bite, shows you a taste of heaven.
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Served in morning its breakfast, served with milk its dessert. Who can possibly resist the bittersweet indulgence!
Of course this is adapted from various recipes and it worked out well for me. With the right sugar, always the brown baking sugar for the gooey bite and measured amount of chocolate chip to keep you wanting more. And just like that I coined my very own version of chocolaty goodness that I hope to pass on to my future family.
Psst… I hear it’s the fav kinda cookie that even the cookie monster craves.
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Recipe
Crispy on the outside chewy in the inside Chocolate Chip Cookie.
Often missed the gigantic convention oven that is a common place in  most apartments in US but a Samsung microwave/grill/convection oven in India worked just perfectly. My cousin and I had fun baking this recipe together while in India in a microwave oven using the convection oven setting.

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Muggie swirl – Bloggersary II

Cafe au lait cake
What’s that smell?  Mmmmmm, it’s soooo good… draws you to grab a bite of that creamy oven-fresh Cinnamon roll, while you walk past the store at a mall…..
Molten hot chocolate sauce flowing out while you cut a piece of lava cake….  That mouth watering juicy bite of softy chewy rasagulla you can’t resist…..
Sweet Tooth? Don’t be surprised! We are wired to perceive sweetness as happiness and blissful contentment.

It’s a true yardstick of all pleasures! 

Also, a thing to share on all those happy occasion. Thankfully, I’m a part of the most sugar-loving unhealthiest culture on earth that fills every month of a given year with reason to make sweets. Keeping up the culture,  I share something sweet, to mark a milestone of happiness.
cakeinacup
That’s my cake bouquet celebrating the 2nd Bloggersary with a Muggie swirl and a cuppie side kick. *Ting*
If you have been a foodie scouting for easy-peasy recipes online, I’m pretty sure you stumbled upon the most dangerous cake in a mug recipe. Quite a few versions online, this merry post full of ‘do-not-proceed’ request caught my attention.
cakeinacup2
Like a little child who is asked to hold back the gift box until birthday morning, we, as grown up, always have an urge to grab the forbidden. Oh Nutella, that’s enough to get me going…. How could I resist? Despite all the warning, I went ahead with reading it…. Thanks to my curiosity!
So gleeful and filled with color, check out the adapted recipe by Novice Housewife. She’s super cool, I can’t beat that! 🙂
For Swirl cake – Make a plain cake batter, divide into half, add coffee/sugar and chocolate/nutella separately and layer the batter. It’s almost a quarter pound cake in the cafe au lait mug with a little bit of milk, coffee and a lot of chocolate.
Café latté – Nutella Chocolate cake
  • Pretty-pretty mugs
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp espresso coffee
  • 1 tsp instant coffee
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tbsp cocoa
  • 3 tbsp nutella
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 3 tbsp butter unsalted
  • Dab of salt
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Scrumptious swirl cake with a crusty dome top and soft chewing insides made it a great side for evening coffee. It’s a bit of cultural thing at Lucid memoirs to share a cake recipe every anniversary. Hellopalz Blogiversary cupcake, the first year.
Alright, you go try it out now or just grab a spoon and dig in virtually!

3 secrets of blogging a (plum) cake recipe

plum

Gotcha! Now that I have your valuable attention, let me impart my blogging knowledge to you. Its fairly simple, when I can do it so can you!
Time for some Gyaan with giggles…. (Gyaan is advice in hindi)
Inspiration is a key to creativity yet we debate about it being a clever theft. They say… as long as you credit your sources, it should be fine. Internet, as you know it, has tonnes of recipes and their variation. In a way, each blog post is just a repeat, if you don’t put your heart to it.
So, Tell me something…  What makes your blog post different from the rest?
Recipe
Is it the best kept secret of your family, your Grandma’s recipe?
Content
That juicy story of how you got baked  with your friend while the cake was in oven?
Visuals
May be, its the drool-worthy food photography that makes your reader have a sweet tooth!

plum wine

Experts believe that it is a right mix of all the above. Do you agree?
Food blogging is a broad topic and there are multiple ways to be successful. Sunshine and smile, by Kankana has been my inspiration for food photography. Her captivating posts like this one -> Breakfast in Bed  brings your nostalgic memories afresh. Although, I’ve been cooking for over a decade now but when it comes to blogging I prefer writing about all the baked goods, trying out new sweet treats and spicy savories.
Lets get practical! Who has to time to be a jack of all trades, anyways. I think that photography is an integral part of food blogging because it captures your audience to begin with. The content/ recipe plays a major role with SEO, blog traffic and to create a long-standing fan following.
Talking about photography, I’m no expert but I like to shoot before, while and after.
The Curtain raiser – Ingredients
Clean the shutter, sparkle the sensor and keep your camera ready, right from the start. Sometimes ingredients are so gorgeous that it takes the center stage. If your recipe  calls for one a juicy fruit like orange, lemon or this sugar sweet plum the you are in for a treat.
Wait…Dont eat the fruit, I mean… treat for eyes. Try shooting a slice of orange with natural light source at the back and you will know it.
Light source and its placement is crucial for good macro photography. In first image of this post, I’m shooting while my camera faces the window. Notice how the shadow of the plum fall at the bottom front of the fruit.
Of course, to keep the background clutter free, I’ve used a pale fabric forming a relevant color palette.

Sugar plum

The Drama – Making of sugar sweet plum-cake
Its gripping! If you are a pro, go for motion shots. Capture the pouring egg yolk, or splash of syrup or while you sprinkle the freshly ground cinnamon powder over the batter.

cinnomon sprinkle

Focus, focus, focus! It is not said enough how important this can be. Focus defines the photograph and says it all.  If you are a beginner, let your lens focus automatically while you choose the manual settings to adjust the light and exposure. I still do this, I’m no expert and Im afraid to risk it.
In the photo above, I wanted to capture the texture of the cinnamon sprinkle and the one below shows the view of cake right before it hit the oven. When using fabric for your photo-shoot, let it be messy. The ruffles and folds are playful and creates depth to your shot but also keep in mind that fabric wrinkles are just unpleasant.

plum three

The Show stopper – Its time to relish! 
By now, your home has a sweet smell of baked cinnamon plum cake. All you want to do is “grab a spoon” and go at it but hold on….
At this point, if my husband is home, he usually becomes cranky and blame how nice our pre-blogging life was. This is just like how Indian moms made you wait for your turn to get your hands on the yummy Indian festival sweets until the evening because its made as an offering to Gods.
  • Spend some time arranging the background and prop up the foreground. While choosing add-ons, stay within the same color palette so its pleasing to the eye.
  • Interesting cutlery, silver ware…Oh! White plates of various shapes is a must have! I’m still working on this one.
  • Lighting and camera- This whole set up is placed on a white scarf with a lot of diffused sunlight. The camera is positioned in a way where I don’t cast shadow on the element photographed. This works well for most product photo shoot and again the best time to shoot is between mid day to late afternoon.
  • P.S – No flash photography in this zone – Food, usually cakes hate flash. You will scare away all the yumminess!
Play around with your shots, adjust lighting and focus. Try to capture the shadow of the glass. Go macro and shoot the cake crumbs  or water droplet on the fruit. Its your blog after all… do what make you happy! 🙂

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There…. that’s my 5 cents on photography and blogging and if you are here for the recipe, lemme clear things out!
Not my grandma’s secret recipe…. (Well my grandma just made ladoos and murukkus)
Didn’t make out on the kitchen table nor got stoned in the process…
It’s probably about photography and the plum-cake recipe is here….
Oh ya! You are adopted  adapted from Martha Stewart’s Open Face Plum Cake. Sorry, this came out rude! I still love you cake!
Recipe
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Hellopalz Blogiversary!!!

50 posts, 6 topics, 4 cities, 3 blogger awards, 1 wonderful year!
Candle is lit, cupcake is ready and a reason to celebrate? Not just one…Its my first Blogiversary falling on this special day. 
People often ask, why this name for my blog. Months ago I answered it on my ‘about’ page and today’s kinda like an affirmation.
Why Hellopalz? 
I say…What better way to invite everyone to my place online. This name has been my fav since the internet age and a need for a “unique” usernames.
Happy friendship day!
Cant believe a year has passed since I hit publish on my first post reluctantly. Its been one hell of a journey! So much has changed, so much to learn…Started out as an art/jewelry blog, now I can’t get enough with categories.
Blogger Awards
It’s such a surprise and a great pleasure to receive them. Isn’t it? Three of them in the last few months! Why wouldn’t I be happy?!
Glad my readers thought that I/hellopalz was worth it. If you are a blogger you would know. And for the rest, let me make it clear, this ain’t a big deal. Blogger awards are more like chain letters. When you receive it,  you nominate  10 others along with a brief on yourself. It’s really a tool to increase traffic, visibility and appreciate one another.
I would like to change things a bit…. Lets first meet the people who have nominated my blog.
  • Rosie Scribblah – I’m awed by this  talented artist who sketches figure drawing and everyday scene on daily basis for this inspiring blog.  Thanks for seeing the versatility in me. I’m more of a “Jack of all….” kinda person.
  • Catbirdinoman – Identifies herself as a Nomad or a wanderer. She is an English teacher who travels the world and shares her beautiful journey with the rest of us through this blog. Thanks, for you recognize my work here is genuine. 🙂
  • mynycphotography – Meet Jem, moved by the beauty the city has to offer, he hosts this blog full of stills. Thankful to my short stay and this blog acquaintance who nominated hellopalz  as one lovely blog.
Exceptional talents, awe-inspiring people tie in with each other for one common interest. Love for art of various forms. Grateful to all my family,  friends and followers who have shown their love and support to keep this blog alive. 
As a token of thanks, I  humbly request all my reader to visit these interesting blogs.
                                       
What’s new and exciting in your life?  
Share it here and celebrate friendship day with me…. Don’t forget to  find and “Like” me on Facebook 
Tutti Fruiti Cupcake
If you’ve lived in Karnataka, I bet you would know this very Indian flavor of cupcake. My school evenings were filled with joyous moments of fun when I get my hands on a couple of delicious tutti-fruiti cupcake for snacks. Strangely I’ve never been able to find these cupcakes anywhere else. The first time I found tutti-frutti in Wal-Mart, I picked it up without second thoughts.  Every once in a while I make it to feed my nostalgia.
In a mood to bake??? Head over to your kitchen, try out this recipe and feed your sweet tooth! 
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Coffee lovers’ dessert

A few year ago, after a decent Italian dinner at a local restaurant, my friends and I shared this delicious dessert. Soft yet rich, sweet and subtle on the palette, this coffee flavored dessert was the highlight of the dinner.
tiramisu-layers
Later when I started blogging, it was mostly about jewelry and art until I decided to create a go-to place for all my recipes. The recipe for this Italian delicacy tiramisu and home-made ladyfinger had to go up here…
Tiramisu
Buy it ready-made or bake it at home, good lady-finger cookies are a ‘must have’ to make tiramisu. On my first try, I adapted the food network recipe to make the ladyfingers, which turned out pretty good. But this time,  I took a short-cut and used the ‘store brought’ ladyfingers. Tiramisu & coffee
Recipes
There may be a various ways to make tiramisu, but the traditional method is to make it with mascarpone cheese with egg yolk. Adding whipped cream just spoils the authenticity of this delicacy.
Find how to double boil the eggs for the authentic tiramisu recipe and how to make home-made lady fingers below… Continue reading

TAJ – Little did I know the last summer…

…that I would move from California to New York for the Christmas!

The Silicon valley, the bay area, the Nor-Cal… these are just a few colloquial ways to describe the northern part of California, the place where the city of love, San Francisco is situated. Having lived here for almost 4 years and calling this place my home has always made me happy.

Exploring the endless Wild West is hella fun, now I’m ready to visit the busy east. Here’s another post on my tour activity journal featuring New York city. The city literally never sleeps. A ten-day summer vacation in New York and states around was just so perfect. My friend Deepa made a special time of my life.

The Architecture

The first couple of days passed by with a lot of shopping at the century 21 and visiting place in the financial district, including Ground zero, the statue of liberty, the churches, the wall street, the Brooklyn bridge, the bull and so much more!

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