“A Bollywood Affair” and Home-made Kaju katli

Book Review : A Bollywood Affair

As a teenager, I was a die hard fan of Mills and Boon. I would rent out one every couple of days from the local library and immerse myself in those books and almost always imagine myself to be the heroine. And however independent I was in real life, I loved the damsel-in-distress part in those novels. Perhaps it was something about the description of the hero, that you wanted him to come and rescue you, even if you didn’t need it. Ah yes and the the racy cover photographs! I would stare at them every few pages later and it would lead me to imagine things on my own.

Then abruptly that era of romance novels stopped, or came to a screeching halt. As if I had gathered all the know-how to fall in love. And while becoming an accountant, or working as a banker, I assumed I had to read more serious books and poor little Mills and Boon genre went through the window, taking with it all warm and soft feelings which that kind of books give you.

And then a few days back I got an Advanced copy of an Indian romance novel set in Michigan, ‘A Bollywood Affair’. It tugged at my heart. The characters Mili and Samir and Virat, they are endearing and brash at the same time. It is essentially the story of Mili who is married off to Virat at the age of 4 in a small village in Rajasthan and then for the next 20 years, she doesn’t meet him or hear from him. Yet in her heart she believes that she is married and acts accordingly. And its the story of Samir, Virat’s younger brother, who is in Michigan, USA to secure a divorce for his brother, for a marriage which they don’t consider to be existing ever.

And then Mili and Samir fall in love, bollywood style!

ABOLLYWOODAFFAIR_Cover

Its a beautifully crafted book, the scenes are so vividly explained that I could almost smell the samosas being fried at Mili’s best friend’s wedding. Or for days later I could imagine a yellow cycle which Mili has, standing in our own driveway. The book grows on you. On one side I wanted to hastily finish reading the book so that I come to know of the whole story, but at the same time, I wanted it to linger, to last, for some time more so that I can be in their beautiful “fallin-in-love” world just a little longer. Well, I couldn’t put the book down ad stayed up all night and finished it.

The most empathetic part of the book for me was Mili. She is shown to be very traditional yet pragmatic, she yearns for her husband to come claim her and yet goes to US for higher education. She has a belief system in place and that helps her set things right in the lives of people she cares for. And quotes of her grandmother throughout the book would make me go and squeeze and hug my grandma.

The only part in the book that did not go down well with me was the number of times Mili fainted. Eat something, girl! But Samir was always around to catch her midway through the fall, and the fluttering sparks which flew between them still made it enjoyable.

The book is set for release on Tuesday, 28 October. How did I get an advance copy? Yes, my aunt-in-law has written the book and everytime I see the pre-release activity on Facebook, I get a star-struck moment. I can see what a huge deal it is to write a full book, get a publisher, go through numerous rounds of edits and then finally release it. One important thing for me in a book is to know that there are no unforgotten characters. Each one is led to a logical conclusion.And none of the characters are left hanging here. When I asked the author Sonali Dev, how long it took her to string this one together , her words were “This book took about a year. It was one of those books that just flew out of me”. :)

Like I grew up on Mills and Boon I was very curious to know what shaped her romantic view of the world. But Sonali Dev says ” I didn’t actually read a lot of romance novels growing up. One odd Mills and Boon in college and a few Danielle Steele’s. When I was a young mother in my early thirties, I got sick and my husband took the kids to the library. Since I was out of books and I had time to read, thanks to being sick, I asked my husband to pick up a book for me. He, of course, walked into the library and grabbed the first thing off the display shelf. It was Catherine Coulter’s Rosehaven. A ‘full-on’ Medieval Historical Romance. I read the back, gave him my angriest wife glare and said, ‘You’ve been married to me for 10 years and this is what you think I read?’ But then I made the mistake of starting to read it and I finished it in one night. Could not put it down. It was absolutely delicious, I was hooked. I inhaled all of Catherine Coulter’s books after that and then went on to discover Lisa Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nalini Singh and on and on. “

If that’s what pulled this fabulous author into romance writing, the next book I want to read is definitely Rosehaven.
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev (See it here on Goodreads) releases on 28 October, and I already have a list of people I want to gift it to. If you love romance, this one is not to be missed. And if you don’t, this one will convert you.
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And while Diwali is in full swing here, I had decided to make one new Diwali faraal item which I have never made before. This time its home-made kaju-katli, something like a diamond shaped cashew maripan.
I have loved kaju katli forever but I never knew it can be so easy to make. It has just three ingredients. Cashews, sugar and water. Thats it. And it comes together in 20 minutes!
Home-made kaju katli
 Kaju katli
What you will need :
  • 1 cup good quality cashews
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Kaju katli collage

What to do :

  1. Pulse the cashews in a mixer to make a powder, but do not let it turn into a paste. Take a few cashews at a time and pulse them. If you think it is starting to release oil, add a teaspoon of powdered sugar while grinding.
  2. Take the sugar and water in a thick bottomed vessel and let it come to a boil to make the sugar syrup. let it reach the one string consistency. (See picture)
  3. Then add all the cashew powder to the sugar mixture and mix well. Keep stirring on a low flame till the mixture starts to thicken and leaves the sides of the pan.
  4. Continue to cook on low flame till it forms almost a dough. If you pinch a ball of the mixture and roll it between your fingers it should form a smooth ball without crumbling.Once that stage is reached, in about 7-8 minutes, take it off the heat.
  5. While it is still warm (let it cool slightly), knead the dough till it becomes smooth. Then on a Silpat or a greased butter paper, roll it out with a rolling pin to the desired thickness. Cut diagonally.
 Kaju katli stacked
 Notes :
  • I doubled the recipe and cooking time increased by 3-4 minutes. Keep a check on the consistency and keep it stirring at low flame.
  • If it appears too dry, knead with a little ghee.
  • It stays well at room temperature in an air-tight box for 4-5 days and refrigerated for even 7-8 days.

Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes and The Bake Sale

The Bake Sale

Last week, for the first time in my life, I baked cakes and cupcakes and sold them. Yes, it is still unbelievable that someone was ready to pay for the stuff I baked and that I had the guts to ask for a price for my time and effort.

Honestly, I had no idea where to begin. When a friend called to ask if I would like to participate in the upcoming Diwali exhibition, I was sceptical to say the least. But my mom volunteered to have her stall of her competitive exam classes and I took the plunge, with her. I had never done a commercial bake sale before, and within a week I had to decide what to bake, how much to bake, when and where to source the ingredients from, marketing of the exhibition, what sort of frosting would stay well, how to package, how to transport, the pricing, what to do with the leftovers and a dozen other little details. As usual spreadsheets and to-do lists came to my rescue.

Being 27 weeks pregnant, I had to be careful that I don’t overexert, and bending down and lifting heavy objects was out of the question anyway. So I took help. My brother did all the shopping for me, I asked my maid to come in a few hours earlier to help with the preparation, my husband helped with the transportation and of course my mom did a lot of work at the stall venue. Which reminds me, have I said thank-you enough to them? Probably not, and I should do it today. :)

I had a few cupcake recipes on the blog, and a few bookmarked in a random books. I estimated that it would be suitable to make 24 cupcakes of each type. The batter preparation time would be saved and I could still make 3-4 varieties before my energy and time runs out. So I shortlisted 15 cupcakes recipes, and converted all of them to make 24 cupcakes. Then came the upside down fruit cakes, which I simply doubled, to make two pans and about 16 pieces. With all the ingredients listed out, I concluded that I would require 6-7 kgs of flour, 4-5 kg butter, about 4 dozen eggs, a kilo of chocolate chips and slab, canned pineapples, canned cherries, mango pulp, fresh apples, fresh milk, 2-3 packs of whipping cream, 3-4 kg of sugar – granulated and castor and a few other things.

Then I was stuck with the packaging! Local shops and Arife, the go-to shop for baking supplies had nothing even remotely suitable and they couldn’t order it on a short notice. Luckily, I found this online company called IPFKart and they had the perfect size individual cupcake box, and to top it, they agreed to deliver it within a day. Now I was set. Cupcakes : done. Frosting : done. Packaging : done.

The only puzzle which now remained was the pricing. I took a poll in a foodie facebook group called Chef At Large, and a lot of them suggested that Rs 50-60 per cupcake would be a good idea. So on the first day I priced all the bakes at Rs. 40. I baked and sold 80 pieces, but when I calculated the costs once back home, I found I had made a loss. (!) Totally sold off, yet a loss. So the next 2 days, I sold it at Rs. 50 a piece and could cover the costs without compromising on the best quality ingredients and sturdy packaging.

The exhibition was in my home town, the place I have been living in since the last 28 years. Needless to say I had a lot of friends and family friends who were very eager to taste all that I have been making and posting on the blog and Facebook for a while. So half the goodies were gone within an hour of opening shop. Chocolate cupcakes were the first ones to disappear and so the next day I made 3 types of chocolate bakes and still, all were gone in two hours. We are all crazy about chocolate, no? Well, chocolate deserves it.

Bake Sale collage

I had a great time at the sale. I got to bake tonnes of cakes, frost them with dainty looking cream, and the feedback kept my feet off the ground for a whole two days :) If you are inclined, and if you get the opportunity, I highly recommend going in for a bake sale or a retail sale of any kind, the whole experience is quite worth the effort.

Cheers!

Chocolate chunk cupcakes

Chocolate Chunk cupcakes

I had made these cupcakes a couple of times earlier, and each time, they turned out perfect. Little bits of melted chocolate to bite into surrounded by a soft cake. And chocolate whipping cream frosting with a few chocolate chips drizzled on top.

For those who are interested, you can find the cost and pricing of this cupcakes here, to give you an idea of how to do the pricing.

This recipe will make about 30-32 cupcakes, but it can be very easily halved. Adapted from Purple Foodie Chocolate Cupcakes.

What you will need :

  • 24o gm all-purpose flour
  • 72 gm cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 400 gm castor sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 320 ml warm milk
  • 300 gm melted butter
  • 230 gm dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 400 gm about 2 cups heavy whipping cream (I use Tropolite)
  • 4 teaspoon icing sugar
  • 3 drops of brown food color
  • chocolate chips, for decoration.

What to do :

  1. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and keep aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 170C and line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs till pale and creamy with a whisk or a hand-held beater. And vanilla extract.
  4. Then add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the egg mixture, in three-four parts, folding in with a spatula till barely incorporated. Always start and end with flour.
  5. Add the melted, but not hot butter and stir well.
  6. Add the chopped chocolate chunks and mix well.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan up to 2/3rd full and bake for 12-15 mins, till a skewer inserted in the cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Let them cool on a wire rack after baking.
  9. For the frosting, whip the cream till it forms soft peaks, and then add icing sugar, one teaspoon at a time with some brown food color (optional).
  10. Once the cakes are completely cooled, pipe a tower of frosting on the cupcakes, and drizzle it with some chocolate chips.
  11. Ta da! Delicious, melt in your mouth sinful chocolate cupcakes are ready.

Moist chocolate cupcake

 

Barbie Cake / Doll Cake

Family Connection

Ever since I was a child, I have been lucky to have a fairly large family who met very often. My dad the eldest in his generation, has atleast a dozen cousins who are all very close to each other and loved to bunk up at our house every possible time. For six years I was the only child before my brother was born and everyone doted on me. I remember, even later, countless instances when all of us would go for picnics, movies, dinners and all. And then there were weddings, which were a big deal considering the number of members from our immediate family was never less than 150. Of course, I recollect times when only adults would be going for a hike or to watch a movie , and I used to cry so much when I had to stay back home, but overall, I remember having a great time with all of them.

Now, all of them are married, a lot of them have kids of varying ages. Me being the eldest, the onus is on me to keep all the cousins together and provide a platform for everyone to meet, which my parents have been providing for years.

Families have a way of making you feel warm inside, make you feel connected. There are always some common threads, common behavioral patterns which you can trace to at least one uncle or aunt or even a grand-uncle/aunt. It is funny, because sometimes those two people haven’t even spent considerable time with each other, but they exhibit exactly the same eating habits, the same way of folding legs when seated or a peculiar facial expression. And all of us can be traced back to one couple, three generations earlier. Each one of us is a part of them, and they are in parts of us. This knowledge makes me feel rooted. Stable.

When I was in Paris last November-December, a lot of my friends in Cordon Bleu had to go meet their extended families for Christmas and they dreaded it. I was surprised, but it is understandable. All of them live multi-cultural, multi-national lives. Spending different years of life in different parts of the world, perhaps they never got to bond with their families. On the other hand, most of us are born in Mumbai and will die in Mumbai. Sure we travel faraway on holidays, for education etc., but in the end, we come back to our roots. Most of us. And we prefer it that way.

When I got married, my husband and I were thinking of going to the US for further studies with a possibility of settling there. I was in love, just married and ready to do anything, so hadn’t thought too much about migrating to another country.But plans changed and we decided to stay in India. When I look back I realise how insanely home-sick I would have been. I need people around me, a lot of them and often. I need the familiarity your family offers and not once every Christmas, but at least once every two months. Luckily, the entire extended family on my husband’s side is equally awesome, and I am glad that my kids will grow up with the same fun and euphoria with their cousins and doting uncles, aunts and grandparents.

Touchwood.

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And I had my eyes on this Barbie Doll cake for a long time now. I researched all the various methods – with mold, without mold, with fondant, buttercream, and whipping cream, Barbie with legs, without legs and a dozen other related things. Prima-facie it looked like a lot of work, but when I got down to it, it took not more than 4 hours from start to finish.

It was my nine-year old cousin sister’s birthday and all of us had our regular bi-monthly get-together. What better day than this to make this Strawberry pink Barbie cake!

Barbie cake

My cousin loved it and all of them stayed glued near the cake, waiting for a go-ahead to cut it and devour.

I made this one without a mold and used whipping cream for the gown. This underlying cake is really easy to make and this recipe is a keeper.

Barbie Doll Cake

What you will need :

  • 1 cup softened room temperature butter
  • 2 cups caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup hot milk
  • 2 and 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon Strawberry essence
  • 2 drops red food color
  • a pinch of salt is using unsalted butter

For icing :

  • 500 ml whipping cream (I use Tropolite)
  • 4 teaspoon icing sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon strawberry essence
  • 2-3 drops of red food color

What to do :

Cake

  1. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
  2. Cream butter with an electric beater or a whisk till pale and light. Add sugar and beat till creamy.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time, till fully incorporated.
  4. Add the milk, strawberry essence and red food color and beat well.
  5. Combine the dry ingredients – flour, baking powder and baking soda in another bowl, sift it once and keep it ready.
  6. Then with a spatula, fold in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, half a cup at a time, till there are no more streaks of flour.
  7. Now you can either use three 18-20 cm diameter round cake pans and then cut the excess of two cakes to make it a dome, or use three pans of decreasing diameter. I had floral aluminum pans 20, 18 and 15 cm each and I used them.
  8. Line the bottom of the pans with a parchment paper and butter the sides.
  9. Carefully fill the pans with the batter till 1/2 or 1/3 full, smoothen the top with a spatula and put it to bake at 170C for 20-25 minutes, till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  10. Once baked, let the cakes cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then unmold them and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Icing

  1. To make the icing, whip the cold cream till soft peaks, then add the sugar and beat till it forms hard peaks. Add the strawberry essence and red food color and whisk till fully incorporated.

Assembly

  1. Once cakes have fully cooled, cut the dome if any with a serrated knife, so that you have three layers of flat cakes.
  2. Take a cardboard cake board, spread some icing in the centre and place the biggest cake on it, so that it does not leave the board while icing. Take a few strips of parchment paper and place it securely between the cake and the cake board, so that any icing which gets dropped does not soil the cake board.
  3. Give a crumb coat to the cake, which is basically a thin layer of icing to seal the crumbs in, so that they do not interfere with the rest of the icing on the layers.
  4. Repeat the same procedure with the other two layers.
  5. Keep the cake in the fridge for 15-20 minutes for the crumb coat to settle.
  6. Meanwhile check the height of the three layers of cakes and accordingly you can put the entire legs of the barbie in the centre of the cake, or remove the legs. I had only 10 cms of cake layers, hence I removed the legs and made a hole in the top-most cake layer with an apple corer (or a simple knife) and place the top half of the barbie in the cake, covered till waist. (Remember to remove the clothes of the barbie and to tie up the hair with a saran wrap on top).
  7. Then give a generous layering of icing to the entire cake and smoothen the icing for it to resemble an upturned bowl. Add/reduce icing wherever necessary.
  8. With a piping bag and a nozzle of choice, pipe the decoration of the barbie gown on the cake. Be careful to cover it entirely.
  9. Then place the barbie on top of the cake in the already prepared slot and with the smallest star nozzle, pipe a dress on the body of the barbie.
  10. Remove the parchment paper in the bottom, give finishing touches to the barbie and you doll cake is ready!
Barbie cake crumb coat

Covering the layers in a crumb coat

Inserting the barbie

Making an indent in the centre for the barbie

Barbie cake assembly

Covering the cake with cream and decoration

In a few simple steps, your Barbie Doll cake is ready! :)

Note :

  1. You can double the cake recipe and make taller cakes, to fit in the entire Barbie with the legs.
  2. The color and flavoring of the cake and cream can be changed to whatever you like.

Doll Cake

One bowl Pecan Coffee Cupcakes

Today’s post is going to be a fiction story. I read a lot of fiction. And many a times you can even catch me daydreaming a story, playing a role or intently watching a character unfold in my mind.

When I was a kid, it used to be my favourite pass-time during travel. Think of a few characters, entwine their lives, throw in a few complications and elaborate their reactions, either from one point of view or several. What I did not realise then was that I was essentially practicing story writing. I did not put those things on paper back then, but it provided a continuous stimulus to my brain. Now, I not only think of that alternate fictional universe, but also put it on paper. Sometimes. For posterity.

This time the prompt was provided by an online women’s magazine Women’s Web from Sylvia Plath’s book The Bell Jar. Here goes the story -

CARETAKER

“It went on for 10 years. Every time he came home drunk I would hurry my children to bed, to avoid them seeing their father in a sloshed state. Dishevelled hair, unkempt clothes, sluggish words and the worst was the violence. No, he never hit me, because he knew I would hit him back, but the lamps, plates, glasses took the fury. And every morning he woke up to be a good husband, helping with breakfast, asking the kids about their day and dropping them off to school. As if the drama of the previous night never happened. But I knew he remembered what he had done last night, from that look in his eyes, which he thought he had concealed well.

I don’t remember how it started. How my life came to be a series of calm-before-the-storm days, tumulus evenings, insomniac nights and shocked mornings. I was a law professor when I got married, imparting so-called wisdom to my students. The right to stand up for yourself, never tolerate injustice and live as a free citizen. But eventually I had to stop working full-time, I simply couldn’t keep up with the facade of normalcy. Sure, I still did assignments, but never had the courage to go back and stand in front of zesty 20 years olds and give them hypocritical speeches.

It was almost as if I got sucked into a hole. Slowly. The first kid happened when he was still a social drinker, albeit the socializing happened quite frequently. First two years went by totally engrossed in the kid, while managing a full day job. Then the second kid happened, by an accident. Pressures increased, finances got strained, and his drinking became an everyday affair. At first I thought he had lost interest in me or wanted to avoid the conflicts of parenting, then I thought maybe he had an affair, but then I gradually realised he was drinking too much and too often. Simple as that.

I tried different methods to help him let go of it. Casual coaxing, emotional conversations, silence treatments, warnings, threats and then finally packing my bags and going to my parents’ house with the kids. But he always convinced me to come back. I would look into the mirror and wonder – how did I reach this stage? Since when did I become so tolerant? Was it for the kids? It must be. That was the only rational reason. But it was not. The kids were scared of him. They didn’t know which father was real. The one at night or the one in the morning. They hated weekends, and dreaded holidays. Slowly, they became reserved, quiet and hardly spoke.

Eventually it all became routine. I was unfazed by it, or perhaps so disturbed that I never remembered what normal felt like. Then one day, I met an old friend, who was the head of the law department at the college where I studied. He wanted me to come onboard, be a senior lecturer, write in the legal journal and be a part of the college again. I said I was not sure. He persisted. Then thinking I had nothing to lose, and extra money would always help, I resumed back being a professor. The husband was unperturbed. I was careful to not let his routine get affected, and he did not mind. I got a new surge of hope, enthusiasm, and the kids seemed to like it. After initial period of doubt, I was back in the game. My students loved me, I got published in the International Law journal, I had a direction to my otherwise rudderless life.

Or so I thought.

Till one day, three years later, when he had a stroke. Paralysed on the left side, unable to eat, drink, pee or defecate without help. The drinking stopped, yes, the withdrawal symptoms lasted for a month, but then we were just left with half of him and none of me. 

The kids eventually went away to college, and I was left here. Nursing a thankless man, who I felt nothing for.

Every once in a while I would look at the journals which featured my articles, and my brain and hands would ache to be in rhythm again, to think and simultaneously write. And then I would hear a wail from the other room, pack off the papers and address the wailer. It went on.

Last month, he died. I am 50, and free, first time in the last 25 years. Or so I think.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : This is fictional. Has no resemblance to any person, living or dead.

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Okay, so this weekend bake were these dainty primed Pecan Coffee Cupcakes.

I adapted this recipe from Cupcake Lover’s Guide an advertorial pamphlet I picked up while strolling in the Mumbai Fort area. It’s a nondescript little magazine, but all the 20 odd recipes looked very promising and they are turning out great. And this one is a one bowl recipe. Just add everything together and bake!

Pecan coffee cupcake

One bowl Pecan Coffee Cupcakes

What you will need :

  • 175 gms self rising flour
  • 175 gms softened butter (salted)
  • 175 gms castor sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 tablespoon cold espresso coffee
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans

For the buttercream

  • 115 gms butter (salted) at room temperature
  • 200 gm icing sugar
  • 3 tablespoon cold espresso coffee
  • 12 pecans, halved for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Line a 12 hole muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  2. Put the flour + butter + sugar + eggs in a large bowl till well combined.
  3. Stir in coffee and pecans.
  4. Divide the mixture in 12 muffin liners.
  5. Bake at 180c for 15 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool on a wire rack.
  6. For the buttercream, cream butter till soft. Sift in icing sugar and beat till pale and light.
  7. Add coffee and mix well together. With a piping bag, swirl a small layer on top of each cooled cupcake and place a halved pecan on top.

Platter of pecan coffee cupcakes

Notes :

  • If using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the cupcake batter as well as buttercream. Salt helps bring in the flavor. I always use Amul butter for all my bakes.
  • These cupcakes come together in literally half hour. And pecans can be blindly substituted with walnuts.
  • If using regular all purpose flour, reduce 175 gm flour by 2 teaspoons and add 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

Pecan cupcake opened

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

The Baby kicked!

Yesterday my baby (or foetus, if you prefer to call it that way) kicked  a feel-able kick for the first time. A real knock-off one which the father could sense too. And once again I realised what they show in movies is total crap! The baby does not know what “All is Well, All is Well” is and kicking the first time can not really be defined.

I had been feeling the flutters since the last two weeks, as if I am slowly releasing an air-filled bottle deep under water and the bubbles are gushing out. Thats how the initial baby movements felt. And then I would frantically place my husband’s hand on my tummy so that he could feel it and I would momentarily stop breathing. Lest my breathing rhythm would camouflage the baby’s kick. But naah, I could just feel it inside, and nothing through the layers of the womb and skin. So the Eureka moment of “He kicked/ She kicked – for the first time” was spread out over a two weeks!

Similar thing had happened when we found out I was pregnant. Being led on by the movies, I was expecting a lightning moment where I realise I had conceived, and would tell the husband, he would lift me in his arms, we would sing a song or two and already start dreaming about baby’s names. But noh! It was a long, excruciating process where you confirm that you are really pregnant.

I had a stack of home pregnancy tests, anticipating I would miss my periods and intended to take the test the very day I missed them. Curiosity was killing me, but still we decided to wait for a day. I couldn’t sleep all night, as if it were result day the next morning. And at 4 am, I finally woke up and took the test, unable to resist it any longer. In the sleepy groggy state I waited for a second for the strip to change color. It did not. I was disappointed and came back to sleep. The husband had woken up by now, consoled me saying that we will check it again a few days later and then he went to use the bathroom. I slept.

When we woke up at 7 am, husband said to me that the strip lying on the counter had changed color. I went and checked, and it had! Very slightly, but there was a change. Duh. We had to take the test again, and till then nothing could be confirmed. And then the next day there was another home pregnancy test, and then later on the blood test at the gynaecologist, and then finally it was confirmed that I am pregnant.

All the song singing and whirling and twirling stayed in my head.

Someone may say I am watching too many shitty movies and soaps, but they are a source of education. The first time I saw the home pregnancy test was in FRIENDS and Rachel has to be thanked for it. So there you go.

Another dilemma I am now facing is when I see mothers talking to their babies in the womb. I find it REALLY awkward to look down at the tummy and talk. Sure, I have conversations with the baby, but in my head. I can’t, for the love of life, unmute myself and quote Einstein to that little tadpole like thing deep inside layers of amniotic fluid. The father talks to the little one, but it is as if he is talking to me and I am responding to what he is saying. But me saying something to my stomach in an empty room? Well, thats not happening.

I just hope that doesn’t make me any less of a mother, but I have to preserve my sanity. I am sure the baby will eventually know my voice, albeit without a woman who talks to her body parts.

Lovingly,

Rutvika

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My other love has been Beth Hensperger’s book The Bread Bible. I have made several breads from the book before like this one or this one or even this beautiful one. All three use entirely different methods and with some adjustment of flour, the bread dough shapes up beautifully. There is really nothing like home-baked fresh bread.

And when it comes filled with cheesy onion and sesame seed filling and shaped like this one here, it’s a total winner.

Braided bread

It may look intimidating in the first glance, but it is super easy to shape the bread like this -

Braiding the bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

What you will need :

For the dough

  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110 grams salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 large egg

For the filling -

  • 4 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoon grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • 5 tablespoon sesame seeds + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • rich egg glaze of one egg yolk + little milk

What to do :

  1. In a large bowl using an electric beater with paddle attachment, combine yeast + sugar + salt + 1 and 1/2 cup flour.
  2. Add milk and water and beat until creamy for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the egg + softened butter with another 1/2 cup of flour and beat until butter is incorporated.
  4. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough which releases the sides of the bowl is formed.
  5. Then turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead till a soft yet springy dough is formed, dusting with flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead for 6-8 minutes by hand.
  6. Place dough in a greased deep container and turn once to coat. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile prepare filling. In a medium skillet, melt butter + oil. Add onions and cook till translucent and limp but not browned, or the filling will turn bitter. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and sesame seeds. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
  8. Then gently deflate the dough, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Grease or parchment line a baking sheet.
  9. Cut the dough in half. Roll one half into 18×12 inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 4 inch wide strips (4×18 inch.
  10. Carefully spread filling in the centre of each strip, leaving one inch margin on all sides. Fold over the edges and pinch them together, encasing the filling. Lift the ropes and place them on the greased baking sheet one inch apart.
  11. Beginning in the middle braid each rope loosely to each end. Pinch the ends and tuck them under securely. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it double, for 30 minutes.
  12. Twenty minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 170C. Gently brush the braid with egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes till browned on top and sound hollow when tapped. Repeat with the other half of dough.
  14. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Cutting the bread braid

Notes :

  • If using unsalted butter in dough preparation, use 2 teaspoon salt.
  • Depending on the type of flour and humidity conditions, little more or less flour is required to make a soft and springy dough. The book calls for 4 and 1/2 cups, but I had to use 5 cups of flour.
  • If using active dry yeast, use 1 whole tablespoon of yeast.

 

Bon Apetit!

Inside the braid

Orange and olive oil whole wheat breakfast bread

We, the (internet) people

Officially we are going to be the last generation which has known the per-internet age as well as the internet one. We are the link between these two vastly different worlds, and since we have known the other side, it is obvious to yearn for the simplicity of that time, while not wanting to let go off the convenience internet offers.

I was born in 1986, and we got the first personal computer in our house when I was 16 and my brother was 10. With a dial-up internet connection. Yes, the one that used to make whoozing sounds before connecting and all mails had to be downloaded (which were mostly forwarded messages) before the internet connection was lost. And browsing speed was not guaranteed. Additionally, being connected to the internet blocked the telephone land-line and grandmothers resented their only link to the world being broken. That was the time when Orkut had just appeared and was becoming a rage and mobile phone call charges still cost a lot per minute. So we used to give each other ‘missed call’ for fun and agonized if someone picked up the call by mistake. SMSes had to be carefully worded in 160 characters, to send it at a minimum cost.

But that’s all the connectivity we had. Now, just 10-12 years later, we cannot imagine a day without being connected to 100s of ‘friends’ over Facebook, getting an email on the smartphones the instant it is sent, following random people on twitter, posting on social networking groups and anticipating atleast a gazillion likes, looking intently on your cellphones at the dozen whats-app groups and… oh the list is endless.

But it is also an era where Google maps does not let you get lost. Sure, you see a lot more stuff and places because of Trip Advisor, but walking up to locals and asking them the speciality of that place and wandering to reach there, is lost on us. Having a friend over and enjoying a few hours of uninterrupted talking without any calls and messages from the outside world is a luxury of the past. Or suddenly bumping into someone you knew years back and catching up on life is not possible as the Facebook feed already keeps you up-to-date with everything that’s going on. And even hunting for those rare books in old libraries for that one piece of information is no longer required, for Mr. Google is doing all of that for us in an instant.

But who am I to complain? I am a blogger, and having my own website/ blog would not have been possible without the simple and abundant internet today. I want people to follow me, to read what I wrote, to bake what I baked and in general I need to be out there on the scene. It is essential that I post on social groups, engage in discussion over twitter, post pictures on Pinterest, Food-gawker, learn Google analytics to maximize traffic to my blog, and do all that is required for self promotion.

And very frankly, I love it when the blog statistics are booming. I love it when someone writes in to say that I enjoyed this post or what you wrote struck a chord in my heart. I also enjoying finding a long-lost friend via facebook and being in touch with all friends and family over whatsapp.

But what scares me is the amount of validation we are seeking from the internet. If my tweet or post is liked, what I am saying makes sense. If my photo is liked, oh, I am definitely looking pretty. If some suggestions appear when I type my name in Google search, oh,  I am making a mark on the world. It is almost as if who I am is defined constantly by the feedback I get and what I think who I am is not significant anymore.

All these debates arise in my head when I am thinking of what values I want to instill in my kids. I definitely don’t want them addicted to internet from a young age, I want them to form their unbiased opinions about themselves and what they like or dislike, but at the same time they should have access to the hoard of information which internet readily provides.

Oh I need not worry, I will pick up on cues from the internet on how to keep your kids internet free ;)

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Last week I baked a very wholesome loaf cake without any butter. It is more of a breakfast bread, not very sweet , but with a beautiful orange flavor and tastes best when eaten with a cup of chai or coffee, or Nutella.

Orange Olive oil loaf

Whole Wheat Orange and Olive Oil Breakfast bread

Recipe adapted from OhtasteandSee

What you will need :

  • Zest of 3 oranges
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  •  a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup Extra virgin Olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup orange juice (from the 3 oranges)
  • butter for greasing the pan

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175C. Generously butter a 9×4 inch loaf pan and set it aside.
  2. Zest the 3 oranges and collect the zest in a big bowl. Add caster sugar to the zest and whisk it with a fork or a whisk. The orange oil will get released from the zest and flavor the sugar.
  3. Sift the dry ingredients together, that is the whole wheat flour + all purpose flour+ baking powder + salt.
  4. Add olive oil to the sugar and beat well.
  5. Add the eggs to the olive oil sugar mixture, one at a time and whisk till thick and foamy.
  6. Add the dry ingredients and orange juice to the batter, alternately in 3-4 additions. Fold only till there are no more streaks of flour.
  7. Pour batter in the loaf pan and bake in a pre-heated oven for 50 mins to 1 hour, till a skewer comes out clean.

orange olive oil whole wheat cake

Beehive Honey Cupcakes

I do remember.

I recently read an article which said that kids don’t remember anything before seven years of age.It was surprising because I do remember at least a dozen incidents which happened before I turned six. And I also clearly remember that it was before six, because we shifted into a new house at that time and then soon my brother was born. Before that it was just dad, mom and me in a dainty one room and kitchen apartment with big windows and a lot of sunshine.

I clearly remember the layout of the house. The kitchen was huge and we had a double bed along one side of the dining area adjacent to the windows. The morning sun shone brilliantly on that side and several mornings I would be sitting in that window and eating breakfast. Apparently to maximise the absorption of vitamin D in my body. And mom would be tinkering around in the kitchen. Such peaceful mornings, I would stare into the distance and imagine vivid things. Mom was not working at that point of time, and I would have her wholly to myself.

Sometimes it feels strange that the most innocuous incidents get lodged in your memory. My best friend then was a girl who lived next door, she was a year older to me, and at that time seemed so much wiser. She knew a lot of things I didn’t. And while we were a strictly vegetarian family, they regularly cooked fish. I was amazed at the way her mom cleaned and cooked the fish. We would also play a little game where her father would be bitten by a snake and we were doctors, curing him. I am sure, we must have played so many more interesting and awesome games, but that little snake bite act is the only game I remember.

My dad was a cop, and he always worked in shifts. So while most dads were not available to pick up and drop off kids at school, my dad would be there. In fact, (now this I don’t remember, I have seen the photograph), my dad was the one to drop me off in school on the first day. I loved sitting on the scooter with him, hugging him tightly at the waist and looking at the world left behind. And yes, imagine that we were on a horse, racing with other horses, and of course always winning. Even later on, he would take me and my brother on hour long rides. The fresh air constantly brushing on my face left me refreshed and sleepy at the same time. Those really were simpler times. Way fewer resources and comforts, but that was more than required.

I also remember two-three accidents where I hurt my finger or my lip got a tear and needed a stitch. May be the visible trauma of that incident gave it more importance.

Now when we are on the verge of having kids, I always wonder what they will remember when they grow up. We obsess over creating warm and cherishable moments for them, think and plan exotic and fancy events, so that they would have a store of great experiences. But there is no guarantee what would get registered in their tiny little brains. Perhaps the most mundane of activities, like having dinner with parents and grandparents everyday would be a highlight or the few minutes in the morning spent snuggling up to dad before going to school. Or may be just the way a stream of light comes in through the window every evening creating a mosaic of colors on the floor.

We have no idea. But that doesn’t stop us from weaving plans of ‘we will do this and we will do that once the kids are born’. I already imagine myself singing my favourite songs to the baby, and dancing with him/ her to a particular chirpy song playing on the radio.

The kid may not remember it, but I will. For them and for myself.

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Last week, I stumbled upon Donna Hays‘ website. She is a veteran Australian baker and most of her recipes use salted butter, which is the one we get here in India. And what beautiful photos! Go visit her sit, you will love it.

I tried her Beehive Cupcakes and they were a hit. The honey in the cupcakes caramelises beautifully to give a soft crunch at the base and on the sides. I added a bit of orange oil to get a nice flavor and yes made the meringue frosting without the cream of tartar. And it whipped up beautifully.

beehive cupcakes

Donna Hay’s Beehive Honey Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

What you will need :

  • 125 gm softened butter
  • 165 gm caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 185 gm all purpose flour sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Meringue frosting

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar with some yellow food color, for decoration

What to do : 

  1. Pre heat oven to 160C.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and honey in big bowl beat until light and creamy.
  3. Gradually add the eggs and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and milk and fold until just combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into paper lined muffin pans.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  7. Cool it on a wire rack.
  8. For the meringue frosting, place sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  9. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. meanwhile start beating the egg whites till it forms soft peaks.
  10. Then while constantly whisking, pour the sugar syrup over the egg whites in a slow stream, incorporating the syrup int he egg whites.
  11. The egg whites will become hot and continue whisking till it cools down and becomes thick and glossy.
  12. To assemble the cupcakes, cut a round from centre of each cupcake with a melon corer or a cookie cutter.
  13. Place the frosting in a piping bag with 1 cm plain nozzle and pipe it into the centre of each cupcake. Sprinkle with colored sugar for decoration.

Coring and frosting the cupcakes

Notes :

  • If you are using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt with the butter in step 2.
  • The original recipe called for cream of tartar, so if you wish you can add a pinch of while boiling sugar and water.
  • Egg whites get cooked at the stage when boiling sugar syrup is poured into the egg whites, so don’t worry.
  • The unfrosted cupcakes stay well in an airtight container for at least 5 days.

honey cupcakes