The melodrama of everyday news.

News

Last week on the final day of our company meeting, we had an inter-departmental quiz contest based on current affairs and other general knowledge. To our horror we realised that from our accounts team of 8 women, nobody reads newspapers. Myself included.

Its not that we do not glance at the news and have an outline knowledge of what is happening in the world, but ask us the chemical name of Meow-meow (Mephodrone), or the exact number of seats won by AAP in the current assembly elections (67), and we were dumbfounded. I have always found reading the newspaper very depressing and hence I skim through it. But on seeing all the others in my team sailing in the same boat, I was shocked.

It is true, that even now in almost all households, the men can sit with their cup of tea and breakfast in the morning and read through the newspapers while women make breakfast, get the kids ready, plan meals for the day etc etc before leaving for work or starting other chores of the day. In my office team, all of these women have kids aged between 2 to 15 years and I am sure they must be juggling a lot of roles before they come to office by 9.30. I have seen my mom do that forever (although dad does make coffee for her and she gets those 5 minutes of peace drinking coffee) , and my mom-in-law makes fresh breakfast every morning even before we have gathered our senses together, newspaper kept aside till then. My baby is now 6 months old and my mornings are way busier than ever before, but that is no excuse for me. Even before the baby, I found very less time and inclination towards news.

When we were kids, my dad would everyday sit with me and The Times of India, and we had to read the headlines and atleast one entire article of my choice from the first few pages. I always found myself going over to the centre of the newspaper to read editorials, I loved them and still do, but the main pages were dreadful. And dad being the disciplinarian that he is, that ritual of the day could not be bypassed. 20 years later and there has been no change in my attitude. On the other hand, my husband voraciously reads all the news albeit on his tablet /phone. All real time. No stale news for my man in the next morning’s newspaper.

Long time back during a period when I was anxious and upset, worried about life, I had read some motivational book that said “Don’t read depressing news in the morning”. I do not remember any other details in the book, but this line became my alibi. I absolutely hate to read everything that is wrong with the world every morning. For instance todays news : “Greece debt crisis – markets set for a crash”, “BEST bus mows down 2 women” and so on and so forth. The Black Monday would then follow me through my Tuesday.

Of course, this as I said earlier is not an excuse. In global times like these, we have to be aware of what is happening in Mulund, a tiny suburb of Mumbai as well as the new metro opening in Chennai or the gay couple marriages legalised in USA. Although the later has been made hard to miss by all those Facebook rainbow filters used by folks in India, even when the desi section 377 bans LGBT rights.

But technically, if it can still be called a newspaper, I love the Bombay Times. Such happy and gay times, who got linked up with whom, who is starring in the next movie with my favourite actors, which destinations in India are a must visit before turning 30, 5 tips to get that acne free face and those hilarious sexual advice columns, all are my preferred items of “news”.

Nevertheless, let me go pick up my phone and go to the Newsreader app and see if there is any sign of the service tax to be reduced back, or if any import/export concessions will be allowed for our high-tech machinery under acchhe-din. Because I am a Chartered Accountant after all, and for Jignesh – business is business.

Rutvika

Sleepless Nights and Tired Days

Arjun book

With a little baby at home sometimes days begin with an inexplicable tiredness. Nights come and go without even a couple hours of sound sleep, the baby tossing and turning besides you, demanding to be breastfed every hour. It feels like an unending cycle of soothing, patting, feeding, burping, swaddling and trying to sleep yourself and then its 4 am. Birds start chirping outside, soon there is a tickle of a mellow light into the room and then the stark daylight of 7 am. But you feel unrested, the night never gave a chance to recuperate to face the next day. But it is okay. The baby wont be a baby too long and they say later you will miss the nights when he wanted you to comfort him. For now, I wait for that one night when 5-6 hours of sleep is even remotely possible.

Having said that, I know that is was my conscious decision to have a baby. it was not an accident. Husband and I planned this baby and the baby singularly brings more delight into our lives than any other other thing has. He has made us a family and I love being his mother. Breastfeeding him exclusively for six months is also a very thought out decision. I feel proud of it while at the same time I cannot believe how physically taxing it is. After having a proper dinner, if the baby feeds twice in a couple of hours at night, I feel famished. A deep hollow in my stomach. And once the baby sleeps again all I want to do is lie down and sleep for whatever time possible, but I have to get up and eat.

It is true that life is easier now than it was in the first 3 months since the baby was born. But I had very little expectations from my day in those first three months. Taking care of the baby and heeling myself after the rigours of childbirth was all I had to do. It is not the case anymore. I got back to work once the baby completed three months. I have to bake and blog. I need to meet relatives and occasional friends who take the effort to come down closer to my home to meet me as I can’t leave the baby for more than 2 hours at a time. It definitely helps that my workplace is 5 minutes away from my home and that it is our family business where I have a lot of flexibility with work timings. Mom-in-law and mom take care of the baby while I work and do other things. But with such ample support it becomes binding on me to live a full life and not laze around. It is almost as if I feel ashamed of taking an occasional nap in the late-afternoon when I go back home, because there is always something more worthwhile that I can do while the baby naps. And then after 4-5 days of round the clock baby care and work and other paraphernalia, the brain gives up. Goes in a zombie state and I shut myself out from the world with some music. While I work.

At times I feel it would have been easier if I had less expectations from life. And less tendency to feel guilt. I massage my baby with oil every morning before his bath. If in a hurry I miss it one morning, then the entire day I feel I was derelict in my duties. If one day I reach home 10 minutes late for his feeding and he looks at me with those “where-were-you” eyes, I hate myself for being late. Work immediately piles up if I leave even an hour early than planned and my to-do list starts getting longer. And to top it if I haven’t blogged in an entire week, I cant sleep at night. Words keep forming a plot in my head till I write them down. Its an unending cycle I have created for myself and I cant get out of it.

But I suppose that is the only way of life I know to live. I cannot not work. I need it to stay sane. I cannot stand the thought of feeding formula milk to my baby when I am producing enough for him to grow. I cannot take a break from the blog, the stories in my head will get suffocated. I cannot stop baking, the creative energies need an outlet. And I cannot not live. It’s the only life I have got.

Maybe tonight if the baby is relaxed and I get some sleep, things will be better and easier tomorrow. Maybe. But it is better to take it as it comes.

What after LCB and Chocolate Mango Vacherin recipe

Last three Tuesdays I have been writing about going to Le Cordon Bleu, which was one of the turning points in my life. A dream come true. I look at baking in a different way now, I look at life a little different. But when my friends at LCB Paris used to ask me what I plan to do after the course, my answer was simple : I want to have a baby soon and continue with my day job as a CA while baking and blogging on the weekends. They were surprised at this answer. But yes, at-least in the near future I don’t plan to start any baking workshops, or a little cafe or any patisserie. And hence I bring you three stellar LCB alumni, my friends and such awesome chefs and pâtissiers that I gawk at their work. And they have been very humble in sharing their life journey with us, a big thank you to them.

In alphabetical order :

Michael Swamy

Michael Swamy

​Michael had just finished his diploma in hotel management and that’s when he decided to fine tune his skills by going to an international culinary school. He already knew that he wanted to do food styling, write books and be on TV. So to bring more authenticity to his work and writing, he specialised at LCB London and learnt the art of food and above all plating.

As a chef, Michael has worked with Taj Group of Hotels, Bombay Brasserie (London), Kuwait Airways. He has cooked & served several personalities including Prince Charles. Has been a corporate chef with the Bowl House Brand and now Mentor Chef with the Hopping Chef Brand which specializes in Home style fine dining. He is the author of “The East Indian Kitchen” (2010) based on Indo Portuguese fusion cuisine and“Easy Guide to Pairing Indian Food and Wine” ; both of them have been Gourmand award winners. And guess what, he also headed the food team for Masterchef India Season I and II. Apart from that he is a food critic and feature writer for several magazines, and does food styling and photo shoots for several international brands ,which is his favourite since he can get very creative with it.
Chef Michael says that his experience in LCB was exhilarating. He got to learn a tremendous amount and could also get training under renowned Pastry Chef ‘Chef Fillip Tibos’. He won the cuisine program in LCB on a scholarship after doing the Patisserie program. That is the talent of our super awesome and very helpful Chef Michael.
​In future, Chef Michael wants to establish a complete food media setup, for books, photography, creating food videos and wants to be an inspiration to budding chefs. Because he believes that teaching and creating helps future chefs come up and rise.
​In his own words, he would like to advice fellow LCB aspirants : “​Follow your heart and your dreams, don’t be shackled by corporate stuff, just rise and do your best and strive to be the best. The only person you have to beat is yourself and your limitations​.”
Well said Chef.
You can reach him at : michaelswamy.com
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Neha Verma
Couture cakes @ Ellesmira and at Colette's studio, NYC.

Couture cakes @ Ellesmira and at Colette’s studio, NYC.

In 2010 Neha was working in MNC corporate marketing and while she was happy with her career trajectory, she was increasingly aware that she needed to do something more organic and creative with her life. That’s when she decided to flip a huge coin of fate and sought out LCB, Paris. Back then in 2010 the school/brand wasn’t that well marketed in India as it is today. So her motivation to go there was to have her “year in Paris” as well as get a solid foundation in French patisserie which everyone knows is the best in the world.
Her experience at LCB was magical and perfect. She got to hone her basics through the best chefs-including MOF’s, world-class teaching techniques and exposure to the cutting edge developments in the pastry world. She also made friends from all over the world and those endure till date.

Then Neha moved stateside and got an education in cake design. After which she apprenticed for a year under Colette Peters- the world-renowned pioneering artist in this field. Colette’s studio has made cakes for The white house, Whoopi Goldberg, Al Pacino, Yoko Ono, Sting, Kanye West, Rolling Stones etc, just to name a few.

Couture cakes don’t carry a standard pet kg price tag but she said that smallest and simplest averages at $1000 while the most elaborate ones have gone well beyond $15-20,000. (My god!)
Since then Neha has been practicing her skills traveling the world for inspiration, new experiences and to places where she gets to execute inspired projects. She works through word of mouth and through past connections and collaborations.

She realised that the solid foundation of her craft was formed at cordon bleu and the art aspect was honed at Colette’s cakes. The rest is a living tale which is still evolving under the name of “Ellesmira couture cake studio”.
So far she has done projects in Canada, USA, Norway, Greece, France, Czech republic, the Caribbean and India.

You can reach her at : Neha Verma

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Rakhee Vaswani

Palate Culinary Studio

Rakhee runs a premier boutique culinary studio in Mumbai which has beautiful French vintage interiors with a warm kitchen feel. She is quite a self-taught chef over the years. She started very young in the kitchen sat the age of eleven. But she always wanted formal training and hence to enhance her skills and to take herself to the next level she enrolled in an extensive bakery programme at the London Cordon Bleu campus which has opened so many avenues for her and she considers it as her temple.
Rakhee first ventured into the culinary world with her partner chef Anita and ran a home based cooking studio. Then after taking a break to be a full-time mommy, she re-entered the industry after training at Sophia’s. Attending classes internationally changed her perspective and thus she wanted to open a small place where students could learn everything hands on.Hence Palate culinary studio was born in 2009 . Its seven years of successfully running the studio, she now wants to take it to the next level, i.e is a full-fledged culinary school. She is aware that not everyone can travel and achieve their dreams so at Palate she wants to bring higher level of courses like diploma in culinary to them. She also offers BBIC which is boutique bakery intensive certificate course with a full hands on experience to help small and budding entrepreneurs to set up their own ventures. Currently she has students from 5 to 80 year olds. Drop by her studio, perhaps you can see Malaika Arora Khan as her student.

You can reach her at : www.palateculinarystudio.com

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Chocolate Mango Vacherin

In continuation with French deserts with a tropical mango dessert, this week, is a French Vacherin with Chantilly cream and mangoes.

Mango Vacherin

Vacherin is basically a meringue filled with creme chantilly and fruits. I have used mangoes to go on top of these vacherin and the combination tastes summery and light.

Vacherin with mangoes

What you will need :

  • 5 eggwhites
  • 300 gm caster sugar
  • 25 gm cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 250 ml whipping cream
  • 5 tablespoon caster sugar
  • Chopped mangoes

What to do :

  1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and preheat oven to 140C for 10 minutes prior to baking.
  2. Beat egg whites at a medium speed with a stand mixer till frothy. Gradually add caster sugar and vanilla extract and beat till it forms glossy peaks.
  3. Fold in cocoa powder gently using a rubber spatula.
  4. Make round disks of this meringue on the parchment paper.  Keep a dent in the centre where chntilly cream can be filled. The dent can also be made using the back of a spoon.
  5. Bake these meringue nests for 50-60 minutes till crisp till the bottom. Then leave the oven door slightly open for an hour and let the meringues cool completely before taking them out.
  6. Then transfer the meringue to a rack and carefully peel off parchment paper.
  7. To make the chantilly cream, whip the cold cream till medium peaks and gradually add the sugar while whisking. Put it in a piping bag with a medium nozzle.
  8. An hour before serving, pipe the chantilly cream on the meringue disks and put chopped mangoes on top. Garnish with mint leaves.

Hollow of a vacherin

How Cordon Bleu experience changed me and Cheddar Gougères recipe

Going to Cordon Bleu Paris, changed me in a lot of ways. It showed me that a different universe exists , one that is quite opposite to the one we live in. As different as black and white. And still very beautiful.

To put it very frankly, I come from a conservative background. My dad has retired as a cop and my mom worked in an insurance company and then as a teacher. Growing up, we fit perfectly into the middle class traditional family category. And I am myself a very cautious person. I wanted to secure my future. The best possible method to do that was getting a good educational degree. So up until I got married, I had never thought I would go to a culinary school, in a foreign land. Cooking and home catering was what the aunty upstairs did, because that’s what she knew. I was a studious girl. I was meant to be a CA. And then going to Paris on my own, seemed impossible. But somehow, I I applied, got admitted and went to pursue a hobby which tugged at my heart. Very cautiously.

Those 5 weeks in Paris taught me a lot. I met so many different people from such varied cultures that sometimes baking was the only common thread between us. Most girls there were independent, living on their own , having travelled so many places all by themselves and in general much more confident than I was. In the initial days I found myself gawking at them, at their bindaas attitude towards life. They had no strings attached and were carefree. Then one evening about 6 of us sat drinking wine at a friend’s studio apartment and we were then going to go to a nightclub called Queens. Believe it or not that was the first time I was going to a nightclub. So anyway, when we sat there talking, I said to myself “I have nothing to lose, so why worry? Just have fun”. In a way, those girls had already alienated me a little bit since we Indians come from a different background. My parents were not divorced, they both loved each other very much, I loved my husband and me and my husband stay with our in-laws. My plans for the future involved having a baby and staying with my husband forever and not to run away to some exotic location like they dreamed of. Perhaps they found me very boring with my baby and family plans and I found them intriguing yet not in a way that I wanted it for myself.  Then when we were dancing at Queens, 6 of us girls and 3 gay guy friends I suddenly felt my heart open up. There is so much to discover in life, so much to learn. I couldn’t do that while being judgemental. Each and every one is right in their own way, and so am I. That was a turning point in my life. I learnt to accept. With an open mind.

Glimpses of LCB

After that night I was able to enjoy Paris and its quirks better.  We went to Queens a couple more times and danced our way to glory. I also went with a Russian girl-friend to Crazy-Horse (google what that is) and as a group we had some amazing dinners with each one of us from different countries cooking up a speciality. And we talked. About our lives, our hopes and our dreams and the possibilities of making them come true. I felt liberated. Yet with a firm grounding of my family and culture.

All of this was possible because I knew I had a family to come back to. A husband who was waiting for me to return. Mom and dad-in-law who were proud of their daughter-in-law and my parents who had given me a sound upbringing that I could take on the world.

xoxo,

Rutvika Charegaonkar

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Gougères

Since last time we saw how to make Mango Eclairs which is a basic Choux Pastry dough, this time I have used the same pate-a-choux technique to make savoury gougères. This recipe is taken from Le Cordon Bleu book “Classic Recipes”. It says that origin of this pastry can be traced back to the Burgundy region of France and it is mostly filled with cheese. Most commonly used filling is gruyère cheese, however other firm white cheese can be easily substituted. I have used Cheddar cheese since it is easily available.

Cheddar Gougères

Gougères (Cheese Pastry)

What you will need :

  • 250 ml water
  • 100 gm butter (I use Amul)
  • a pinch of salt
  • 175 gram flour
  • 6 eggs + 1 egg for eggwash
  • 150 gm grated cheddar (100 gm + 50 gm)

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 220C.
  2. Combine water, butter and salt in a large pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once butter has completely melted, remove the pan from heat.
  3. Add all the flour at once to the butter and mix it in with a wooden spatula.
  4. Then put it on heat again and continue to dry out the dough on medium heat. Take care to see that it does not stick and form a crust at the bottom of the pan. Once the dough stops sticking to the pan and the spoon, it is done.
  5. Transfer it to another bowl immediately. It should fall in one go.
  6. Beat 5 eggs together and gradually incorporate them into the batter while mixing with a wooden spoon. Mix well after each addition to make the dough stretchy and slightly sticky.
  7. Stir in 100 gm of the grated cheese and transfer the dough to a piping bag, with a medium round tip.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  9. Pipe approximately 2- 2 1/2 cm balls on the tray, leaving about 2-3 cm in between two balls of dough.
  10. Brush the balls with eggwash and be careful that it doesn’t run down the sides. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
  11. Bake until the gougères are puffed up and golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
  13. Sprinkle with some chilli powder and grated cheese before serving.

Hollow of a GougèreNotes :

  • The choux pastry balls puff up beautifully once baked. It can be then filled with a cheese filling, but I prefer to keep them unfilled and light.
  • Choux pastry is one of the most versatile doughs I have worked with, and so beautiful!

Gougères with cheese

Le Cordon Bleu procedure and Eclairs with mango pastry cream

I am a Chartered Accountant by profession and excel sheets come easily to me. Heck, I even make my grocery shopping list in excel. There is something about those cells and tidy rows and columns which makes my brain work.  Perhaps thats why I chose baking. The precision and the technicality in baking allured me. But when I decided to go to culinary school, everyone around me was surprised. Growing up, I was harbouring dreams of becoming a lawyer. Then a journalist. But somewhere along the line, I registered for the CA course and completed it in the shortest possible time. Everybody thought I am an academic kind of a girl. So why go to a baking school? And as my father once pragmatically said, ‘If you want to learn to cook, even your grandmother can teach you that. Why go all the way to Paris?!”

I now know why. Because baking tugged at my heart passionately. I wanted to learn it as a discipline. Wanted to learn it from the masters in an authentic way. Wanted to stay in Paris, learn to bake something in school and then go to a famous local boulangerie or patisserie and taste it. I had to broaden my horizon beyond accounting and taxes and also live through some stories which I could tell my children 20 years from now. I had to do it for myself.

So if there is anyone out there who is thinking of going to a culinary school, this post is for them. If anyone who is from an entirely different walk of life but still enjoys baking, cooking; these next few lines are meant for you. And if you, or your son or daughter has just completed high school and wishes to be a chef, read on.

I have done Basic Patisserie course from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris and so I will be telling you about that. I wish to go back for Intermediary and Superior, but maybe after my little baby boy is a couple years older.

Cordon bleu school

For ease, this post is divided into 3 parts :

  1. Application.
  2. Coursework and timings
  3. Paris -where to stay, travelling etc.
  1. Application

Le Cordon bleu has 40 schools in 20 countries, and students from about 70 countries study in LCB. The Paris campus is the oldest one, established in 1895 as a small Parisian cookery school. The Grand Diploma programs form the core curriculum and it is divided in Patisserie and Cuisine. Each of these two branches are further divided into three levels : Basic, Intermediate and Superior. A few of my friends had enrolled for the Grand Diploma,which takes roughly around 1.5 years to complete. Each level is of a 3 months duration. However, Basic and Intermediary levels are available as an Intensive course of 4-5 weeks as well.

It takes minimum 8 weeks for the application to get processed. An application has to be prepared with an application form, valid passport copy, resume, letter of motivation, uniform measurement form and a non-refundable application fee. Then based on your credentials i.e your statement of motivation and CV (resume) an admission jury reviews your application. And then they send a provisional admit, if everything is in order. But don’t worry, I was tremendously helped by the Indian Admissions office right from making the statement of motivation to payment of fees. And so will you be.

Basic qualification requirement is completion of high school and knowledge of French is not essential. However, students have to be well versed in English.

My course was for less than 3 months hence I went of a tourist visa, but for the 3 month courses and upwards, a student visa is required.

There are multiple short courses available too on various campuses. These range from 3 hour to 10 day courses.

2. Coursework

On the first day of school, there is an orientation lecture where you are introduced to the different chefs, the training module and the school itself. We had students from 17 different countries in our batch and I made some very good friends there.

In our intensive class, we had almost 6-9 hours of class daily, 6 days a week. The days were divided into two sessions – Demos and Practicals. Everyday there used to be a demonstration of a technique along with 4 -5 recipes and then in the practical session we made 1-2 things from those demonstrated under the guidance of the chef. Broadly, we learnt how to make Choux Pastry, Puff Pastry, Brioche, Petit Fours, Croissants, Tarts, Meringue and a few genoise and butter cakes. Tempering chocolate, working with sugar, different types of macarons etc was taught in the next levels.

All the demo sessions are conducted in both French and English. The chef speaks in French and a translator simultaneously converts it to English. A sheet of ingredients is provided and we have to write down the method (recipe) in our own words while it is being demonstrated. That sheet will then be used during practical. During demos, there is a huge mirror above the chef’s platform and TV screens display what the chef is doing.

During practicals, the chef is constantly around to help everyone with whatever they are stuck at, and believe me out of the 28-30 things that we made, none of it ever went wrong. For all of the 18 -20 students in our batch.

There is an exam at the end of the course – one written exam and one practical. It is relatively easy if you have been paying attention during the classes. A certificate is awarded at the end of each level and a diploma on completion of all the levels in both the courses.

  1. Staying in Paris

I stayed in Paris with a friend’s friend Danielle and had the most amazing time of my life. Paris is very well connected with the Metro system and although I lived about 40 minutes away from the school, it was very easy to go to school. However, the students association helps with finding a place to stay. I also have a list of flats / studio apartments available of rent given by the school, which are very close to the school. A brokerage is sometimes charged along with the rent.

Air BnB also provides a listing of hostels and apartments and booking can be done before landing in Paris.

Paris has some of the best cookware and bakeware shops apart from being an absolutely beautiful city with so many touristy things to do.

Cordon bleu goodies

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Sorry for such a long post, but I can go on and on. Shaheen of Purple Foodie inspired me to go and pursue my dream. If even one of you decides to go to culinary school based on this or subsequent posts, I will be super happy.

Adios,

Rutvika.

P.S : And as usual you can PM me with whatever questions you have, or leave a comment here and you shall get an answer.

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We were taught Pate A choux or Choux Pastry in the school and it is one of the most versatile doughs I have worked with. This dough puffs up when baked and creates a hollow in the centre which can be filled with anything. The preferred consistency is that of a pastry cream. Presenting here is Eclairs, the elongated fingers of choux pastry and filled with mango pastry cream.

Three mango eclairs

Eclairs with Mango Pastry Cream

What you will need:

Choux Pastry

  • 250 ml water
  • 100 gm salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 150 gm flour
  • 4 whole eggs

Pastry Cream

  • 500 ml milk (300 ml + 200 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 125 gm caster sugar (25 gm + 100 gm)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mango puree
  • 30 gm flour
  • 30 gm cornflour / custard powder

Mango Glaze

  • 1/4 cup mango puree
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar

What to do:

Choux pastry making is a technique, but once you master it you can even make it while sleeping. For beginners, it is better to get all the ingredients measured beforehand.

  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. In a vessel, heat water + sugar+ butter. Bring it to a true hard boil. Then take it off heat.
  3. Add all the flour at once to the vessel and mix it in with a spoon, till completely incorporated.
  4. Put it back on heat and continue the drying process. Once you lift the spoon, nothing should stick to it anymore. Thats when you know the choux dough is dry enough and should be taken off heat.
  5. Empty the choux dough into another bowl. (to stop further drying from the latent heat). It should fall in one go.
  6. Add 2 eggs, lightly whisked and incorporate it into the choux dough. Then add the remaining two eggs one at a time, while mixing properly.
  7. Take a pastry bag with F16 pastry tip or any other wide holed tip that you have. Fill it with the dough.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Pipe uniform length sticks on the parchment paper, leaving one inch space between two eclairs.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or so till the eclairs puff up beautifully.
  10. Now for the pastry cream, take 300 ml of milk in a vessel with a teaspoon of vanilla and simmer over medium heat. Add 25 gms of sugar.
  11. Take the egg yolks in a separate bowl and add rest of the 100 gm sugar. Whisk immediately, or the egg yolks burn (i.e curdle as the sugar absorbs the moisture).
  12. Add custard powder and flour. Whisk well.
  13. Mix remaining cold milk to the egg mixture. Add the mango puree.
  14. Now pour half of the hot milk to this egg+ sugar mixture. Whisk well. Then mix all of this back to the saucepan and immediately whisk it and stir constantly while on heat. Let it come to a rolling boil while whisking continuously and cook further for 30 seconds and take it off heat. You can see that the pastry cream has now thickened.
  15. Put in in a flat plate to cool completely and then refrigerate for half hour if required to cool it down.
  16. Assembly : Once the eclairs have cooled, poke 2-3 holes in the bottom of the eclairs with a pen. Take the pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a smaller tip nozzle and pipe cream into the eclairs in all three holes.
  17. Mix mango puree and confectioners sugar to make the glaze and pipe threads of it over the prepared eclairs for decoration.

Filled mango eclairs

Notes :

  1. The choux pastry dough has to be whisked well to prevent any lumps being formed.
  2. Eclairs should always be poked at the bottom or they will sink if poked on top.
  3. If you feel there are lumps in the pastry cream, you can strain it through a sieve.

Mango eclairs on a board

Accept my mothers day wishes, mom.

Whenever mom calls, my tone of voice changes. I suddenly become authoritative. Commanding. I had not realised this till my husband pointed it out to me. And that happened when I pointed out to him – that he is so assertive with his mom.

Soon after we got married, everyday my husband would complain to my mother-in-law about the why so and so subzi was made that day, why was breakfast not served at 8 am, why did she install unauthorised apps in her mobile (which made it crash) etc etc. She would very gently try to reason with him and still provide multiple options to him if he disliked what was made. It boggled me. My man, of impeccable manners, was so rude to his mom. I started thinking. Perhaps, this is how he really is and soon he will start talking to me in that manner. And one day I took that up with him. We had a big fight (we don’t fight often, it drains us too much), and he said that its between him and his mom, nothing to do with us. And that’s when he started pointing out when I used to bully my mom on phone or in person.

Now every time I am talking to my mom I am aware of it. I try to be gentle with her. If I can be accommodative of colleagues, friends and other relatives, ofcourse I can be reasonable with her.

Mom and I have had our share of fights, oh we used to fight so much until about I was 22. Like every teenager and twenty year olds, I wanted to do everything she did not approve of. My dad, a Mumbai police office, had seen very bad things happen to girls and hence he used to be super paranoid for me. And my poor mom was always the shock absorber. Dad and me (and my brother of course) would all throw tantrums and she would be the one trying to keep some harmony while everyone threw fits of rage or silently sulked for days. But when did she get a respite? I wonder and don’t find an answer.

As far as I remember , my mom never went to her mom’s house for more that 2-3 days. And ever since I got married and before i had a baby, I  went back to stay for one night in three years. But now once baby Arjun was born, I feel so much more connected to her. When I spent the first 40 days post delivery under her care, I knew only she can handle my post-partum messiness and mood swings. Nevertheless I kept bossing her around.

Perhaps now since I am a mother , I am constantly scrutinising mother-child relationships and wonder how ours would be. Would my boy be like his father? And if he does, do I have the patience of my mom-in-law? Or would Arjun be like his mother, like me? In that case, I know that I don’t have the tenacity to withstand tantrums like my mom did.

The only cushion of comfort is when I hear my mom talking to her 77 year old mom with the same ‘Do-this and dont-do-this’ authority, I know that if they can do that for 50 years, we too can.

Nevertheless, today I will charm her. And life will go on from tomorrow.

Mom and me

Mango Macarons and How I went to Cordon Bleu

There is a very talented Facebook page called the Home Bakers Guild, and for the next four Tuesdays I am the Blogger of The month. Each tuesday, I will post a new recipe and boy, I am working on a deadline for the first time.

My theme for the next four Tuesdays will be – “Tropical French Cooking – Classic French recipes with mangoes”. Those recipes which we learnt in Le Cordon Bleu, Paris and I adapted them to include mangoes. Our best thing of the summers.

A little about how I went to Cordon Bleu:

So I started baking 4 years back, a little after I got married, and then a year later I started harbouring dreams of going to a culinary school. I researched and read and talked to a few people and but of-course Le Cordon Bleu and Paris grabbed my attention and made a little home in my heart. But I am a working Chartered Accountant, and I had no idea how I would manage the three month courses. So I whiled away some time. Then husband and I started thinking of a baby (although, it was me who was struck by the I-want-a-baby syndrome at first). So a baby meant I bid farewell to my Paris dreams, atleast for a good 3-4 years. I had been talking to one Mr. Abhishek, who is the LCB representative in India. He gently kept reminding me of the deadlines of application. But I had to make a choice. Starting a family and having a baby or going to LCB and postponing baby plans by a year. I was 27. Time was running out. I made the choice. Lets have a baby (or two) before we are 30.

Then came the twist in the tale. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and the doctor advised to put baby plans on hold for a couple of months. When she said that, the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘Now I can go to Cordon Bleu’. :) Like Paulo Coelho said in the Alchemist, when you want something badly, the universe conspires for you to get it. And that came true for me.

Immediately I started planning for a sabbatical. I decided to do the intensive Basic Patisserie course, of 5 weeks. I applied, waited with bated breath and did a little dance when I was admitted. Now, funds had to be arranged, leave had to be taken, visa had to be applied for; and I had exactly 2 months before the course began. And I did not speak a word of French.

In a frenzy, I started all the preparations. I was buzzing with energy, making a hundred to-do lists and learning some French in the evenings. And as the day neared, I felt very nervous. I hadn’t stayed without my husband for more than 2 weeks and it was always he who used to travel. While I used to be at home. This time I was going to go for six weeks, and I had never travelled out of the country alone. Yes, I was wary, but deep in my heart I knew I had to go.

And what a blast I had! In the school as well as in the adorable city of Paris.

Now I have a little baby and going back to school for doing Intermediary and Superior Courses seems out of question. But just the other day, Abhishek told me that the biggest campus of LCB in the world is soon opening in Paris in 2016. My heart has again started to flutter. Who knows? ;)

For all those of you reading this post and wanting to know more about LCB, the curriculum, schedule, where to stay, what to expect etc , stay tuned. I will write in detail everything you want to know.

And then ofcourse you can ask questions.

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Mango macarons in a box

And with that I am be posting a recipe of Macarons. Now there are two basic techniques of making macaroons. One is the Italian Meringue (IM) method and the other is French meringue (FM) method. The former is a bit technical and cumbersome. It requires a candy thermometer to cook sugar syrup to a certain degree and then pour it into the eggwhites. Pierre herme uses this technique and also requires the egg whites to be aged for a week.

Mango Macaron held in hand

The second one, the French Meringue technique is fairly simple and can be whipped up effortlessly, with very brilliant results. And I felt that this technique yields macaron shells with a much lighter texture. Plus its easy! These macarons which are sold in Paris at 2 euros per macaron, can be very well made by you at home. Voila!

Macaron shells and filled macarons

Mango Macarons 

What you will need :

  • 75 gm egg whites (from about 2-3 eggs)
  • 100 gm caster sugar
  • 100 gm whole almonds
  • 100 powdered sugar

Filling :

I used mango jam for the filling here, but any buttercream or even pastry cream will go very well.

What to do :

  1. Preheat oven to 150C preferably in convection mode (fan on).
  2. Grind whole almonds (with the skin) and sift it twice to ensure a smooth powder.
  3. Combine powdered sugar with almond powder and again sift it once to ensure there are no lumps.
  4. Now put egg whites in a bowl. Beat them with an electric mixer to medium peaks.
  5. Add caster sugar slowly while beating the egg whites and whisk to stiff glossy peaks.
  6. Add desired color. I added a a few drops of yellow + a few drops of red.
  7. Now sift the almond powder and sugar mixture into the meringue.
  8. Fold it in with a rubber spatula. If you leave the batter for 30 seconds, the contours formed from mixing should even out.
  9. Now cover a baking tray with parchment paper or silpat.
  10. Add the batter to a piping bag fitted with a 10-12 round nozzle.
  11. Pipe small amounts of batter on the sheet. leave it on the countertop for a couple of minutes.
  12. Then bake for 12-15 minutes. Open the oven door one after 6-7 minutes so that any trapped humidity is let out.
  13. Once baked take the parchment paper or the silpat off the baking tray and let it cool for a couple of minutes on the paper. Then with  spatula ease it off the paper.
  14. Fill in mango jam sandwiched between two macaron shells.

Notes :

  • The color in egg whites is suggestive of the filling. So since I used mango jam as a filling, I have used yellow + red color combination.
  • Macarons lighten in color as they bake. So use a little more color in the batter.
  • Do not open the oven door anytime before 6-7 minutes or the “feet” of the macaron will collapse.

Macarons on a plate