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 ;)

*******       *******       *******

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.

*******       *******       *******

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

Eggless Chocolate Cake with Inserted Lava

A Cultural Rhapsody

I was 17 when I read Not Without My Daughter by Betty Mahmoody. And it had a profound impact on me. I missed school and classes for two days, pretended sick and stayed at home to finish the book. It almost felt as if her difficulties would lengthen if I took longer to finish the book. I don’t know if I was empathizing more with Betty or her daughter Mahtob, or both, while simultaneously realizing that Dr. Moody, the father also had honorable intentions, considering his cultural upbringing.

Betty and Moody came from entirely contrast backgrounds, she knew freedom and yearned for it, for herself and her daughter. Moody saw patriarchal way of living in Iran where he grew up, and the way he treated his wife and daughter was the normal way of life in Iran. His mom, sisters, and other women in the family adhered to the beliefs and he wished his wife would too. She, an American, did not confirm and hence retaliated, which led to a vicious circle of fights. Later, Moody told his wife that she can leave, but as per Islamic law, the daughter’s custody would be with him. He was her father, and had equal right to raise her as he deems fit; but Betty wanted an American way of life for her daughter. Unfortunately the book is from Betty’s point of view, but I yearn to read what Moody felt when his daughter was taken away from him, in the middle of the night.

Honestly speaking, at that point of time I couldn’t imagine being separated from my mom, so I was glad that it ended it victory for the mom and daughter. But now, a decade later, I see the somewhat faulty, biased premise of the book. An aunt from my husband’s side, married an Irani guy who she met studying at Delhi University. They shifted to Iran after her wedding, and lived luxuriously for a couple of years in Iran, as he belonged to a royal family. They had two lovely daughters. Then because of the increasing turmoil in Iran due to the Gulf War, they left Iran and settled in the US. All of them. For 20 odd years they were happily married, and eventually due to some problems between the two of them, they got a divorce and she came back to India. But the point is,  she always describes her life in Iran with a lot of fondness. True, their customs are different from ours, but you sort of accept that when you decide to marry a man from that culture!

That was also the time when I realised that I am not capable of handling such a huge cultural diversity. It takes a truckload of patience and courage to accept and assimilate into a different culture you are marrying into. And all the talk of women’s liberation does little to help when you want to adjust into the new family, a majority of the changes have to be absorbed by the woman. Even a strictly vegetarian Jain girl finds it strange is she gets married to a mutton-relishing Punjabi guy. And that is just the beginning. I knew different cultures are a mix of amazing and some very peculiar practices. But I am a sucker for traditions and love the little things that we did as a family , as a community. I knew, I would marry someone who has the same kind of social set-up and values.

So even though the poignancy of that book washed over me and had me in a trickle of tears, my takeaway from the book was way different from what Betty Mahmoody had put in front of us. Nevertheless, like every chisel blow shapes a statue, this book had a big role to play in the way I viewed the world, from thereon.


I have always loved the Choco Lava Cake which comes with the Dominos Pizza. A choco ‘lava’ cake is basically a slightly undercooked cake, with a chocolate chunk in the centre, which melts while the cake is being baked, but does not bake fully into a solid with the rest of the cake. I researched for several recipes, but the thought of eating a slightly underbaked cake with eggs was deterring.

So I researched and tried some more recipes to make an Eggless choco lava cake. Two of the recipes came close to having atleast some amount of molten chocolate, but texture wise one was a disaster. The other one was good, although I would have preferred a bubbling sizzling chocolate lava coming out of it. But in this case there was just a hint of molten chocolate inside.

Two molten lava cakes

Eventually, let me be honest, I realised that a oozing chocolate cake from the centre is not really possible, so I filled it with some melted chocolate , yeah totally cheat sheet.

But its a beautiful and super simple eggless chocolate cake, and I had to share the recipe!

Serving suggestion : Pour some melted chocolate in the centre and serve with vanilla ice-cream.

Chocolate lava cake

Eggless Chocolate Cake with inserted Lava

4 ramekin cakes

What you will need :

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup softened butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1/2 cup yoghurt
  • Chocolate chunks, coated with flour

What to do :

  1. preheat oven to 220C.
  2. In a bowl, sift all purpose flour + cocoa powder + baking powder + baking soda.
  3. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar together till pale and creamy.
  4. Add in yoghurt and flour mixture, alternately, in 3 steps, ending with the flour mixture.
  5. Grease 4 metal ramekins with butter.
  6. Pour the prepared batter in a ziplock bag or a pastry bag without a tip and pipe it into the ramekins for a smooth swirl. Alternately, you can even spoon in the batter into the ramekins.
  7. Press a chocolate chunk in the centre and cover it up with some more batter. Do not let the chocolate chunk touch the base of the ramekin.
  8. Bake at 220C for 8-10 mins, till it is light and springy to touch. A skewer inserted in the centre will show some batter sticking to the centre, which is good. Stop baking and let it cool on wire racks.
  9. Before unmolding, run a knife along the edge of the ramekin and upturn in to a plate.

Cutting a lava cake

Notes :

  • Being an eggless cake it is perfectly safe to leave it slightly undercooked. The centre is still gooey and if you are lucky, some chocolate might come pouring out :)
  • This cake is best enjoyed warm with cold icecream.

 

Sesame Whole Wheat Long Rolls

We stay in Mumbai , the biggest financial capital of India, and one of the major cities in the world. Technically, we have everything. Water, electricity, roads, trains, schools, housing complexes, markets, parks, art, theatre, everything. For majority of the people.

But barely 100 feet away from where we live, there is a colony of slums, of tin walls and tarpaulin roofs, of rooms so small that everyone has to squat on the footpath outside the walled tins. No electricity, no running tap water and we are not even talking about anything else. But what they have in abundance is kids. Of varying ages. As if it is a kid making factory, to be let out into the world. At least a dozen kids belonging to three or four houses are always running on the adjacent road, and wait, those parents are not even done yet. Barely 30 odd years old, they still have at least 15 more productive years and the capacity to bring another 5-6 screaming, naked kids into the world, per couple. And we are talking about folks whose daily income is less than Rs. 200.

Now I understand that not everybody gets equal opportunity to study, to work and earn a decent living for themselves and their family. They are entitled to the way they want to manage their life, but for gods sake stop producing so many kids! Often I wonder how those people are unable to comprehend that every additional mouth to feed, to sustain, is a drain on their already meagre income. My heart goes out to them, but there is hardly anything I can do.

Our maid once told me that her drunkard, seasonally employed brother had four kids, before he died of a liver failure, when he was 32. The first born child, was a girl, and hence they had to have another child, in the hope of a son. The second was a son, but he was very sick and they had no hope of him surviving. Hence the third one, another girl who again was expected to live for 2-3 years because of her frail health and thus, they had to have another one, raising the count to four kids. All the kids survived and the oldest girl is in her early teens, but their father, or the sperm donor really, is long dead. Our maid and her other sister now take care of all those kids, in addition to a one or two of their own.

In olden times, in the villages when agriculture was subsistence, it was okay to have a dozen kids who would eventually be helping hands in the field. But that situation no longer applies in the cities of today, where resources and opportunities are limited and highly competitive. The Government provides free primary education, but thats not sufficient at all. It in effect leads to another generation of uneducated youth who would be emulating their parents, because thats all they have known.

But in a way, I find it miraculous how those women manage to bear and rear so many kids despite the circumstances. Nutrition is poor, they don’t have access to vitamin and protein supplements, most of them are doing manual labor; doctor visits and sonographies, if any are limited to emergencies and yet, life finds a way. While we, the educated urban population, on the other hand, thinks at least 300 times before having a kid, spends hours planning a nutritious healthy diet and has a minimum of 6-7 sonographies and a dozen tests to check the wellbeing of the mother and the fetus. None of it is available to those on the streets, and yet despite poor health and diet, those women in the tarpaulin shanties give birth to healthy and kicking babies.

That is nature. Strange and powerful.

Rutvika Charegaonkar


For brunch this weekend, we made Whole wheat rolls. Yes, our house smelled like a bakery and we nibbled on bread and cheese like the French. I have adapted this recipe from The Bread Bible written by Beth Hensperger. It is really a bible, and every time I bake a bread, it is better than the earlier one.

Sesame whole wheat buns

Sesame Whole Wheat Long Rolls

What you will need :

  • 1 and 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter (salted), melted
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon raw sesame seeds
  • 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4 to 4 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • Rich egg glaze of one egg + 1 tablespoon milk

What to do :

  1. Pour the warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and pinch of sugar over the surface of the water. Stir to combine and let it stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl using a whisk or an electric hand head beater (with dough hooks), combine milk, remaining sugar, butter, salt, sesame seeds and whole wheat flour. Beat hard until smooth, about 4-5 minutes. Or you can do it in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment.
  3. Add the yeast mixture and all purpose flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a dough that just cleans the sides of the bowl is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary.
  4. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes, dsuting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time as needed to make a smooth, soft, slightly sticky dough.
  5. Place the dough in a greased deep bowl. Turn once to grease the top and and cover with a plastic wrap. let it sit at room temperature till doubled in volume, about one hour.
  6. Gently deflate the dough . Turn onto a lightly floured work surface. Grease or parchment line two baking sheets. Divide the dough into 16 equal portions.
  7. Shape each portion into an oblong oval. Roll each oval up from the long end tightly and pinch the seam closed, like a mini french loaf.
  8. Place the rolls 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest until puffy and almost doubled, about 30 minutes. Brush with rich egg glaze before baking.
  9. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 180C. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the centre of the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, until lightly browned and hollow to sound.
  10. Transfer to a cooling rack.
  11. Spread with some mayonnaise and fresh cucumbers, tomatoes etc and your brunch is ready! I used the Cremica Tandoori mayonnaise which came with the huge gift hamper from Indian FOod Bloggers Meet 2014 ;)

Sandwiched long rolls

Notes :

  • I always use Amul salted butter readily available in the market. If you are using unsalted butter, increase the added salt by 1/2 teaspoon.
  • If using active dry yeast, increase the amount to 1 and 1/2 tablespoon.

Buns with mayonnaise

Orange Tartlettes with orange cream

Yesterday night I had the strangest of dreams. In that dream, the husband was pregnant and I was the one taking care of him. Naturally, he was the one who was being fussed about, and I had to hold him, comfort him, come up with something tasty whenever he was hungry at the middle of the night, listen to a lot of whining about how his legs hurt, how his back ached and how he got horrible nightmares every night. And even in my dream, I resented it. How very strongly I wanted to be the one who was the centre of attention and heck, I wanted the baby in my belly. I wanted it with me right from the conception. Simple.

It was a long dream, and it dwelled on the cons of that reverse situation. But I will stop the descriptions here as I am sure you get the drift. I don’t want to go through the anguish of it all over again.

Then when I woke up, and realised that it was just a dream, my husband’s arm was protectively placed over me even when we were sleeping, I heaved a sigh of relief and further cozied up to him.

Which made me realise the amazing way in which nature has created men and women. Distinctly. I say that at the sound of being sexist, but that’s the truth. We, as women are made to want certain things, create and nurture in a particular way that is so uniquely ours. True, there has been a transformative trend where the roles of men and women are getting more aligned. Where you hear a Yahoo CEO getting back to work  two weeks after giving birth and conversely Facebook offering 12 weeks of paternity leave to the fathers. But that’s an exception and not the rule.

Even as kids I remember, we girls would make a baby of anything. The water-bottle, the umbrella, a rolled up newspaper, all of it was nothing but a baby that we could sway in our tiny little arms. And dress up our plastic baby dolls, swaddle them and hold them. I am sure as kids we were not being lectured that eventually you will be the ones having a baby and practice learning how to hold a baby. Heck no. But that was a natural instinct. May be, as Freud has said, we were emulating our mothers. Or may be, we are just wired that way. At least a majority of us.

I remember a particular incident when I badly wanted an ‘imported’ baby doll, which had a pacifier in its mouth and would sweetly coo “Momma” when the pacifier was taken out. I had seen it at a friend’s house and described it to my Dad. After realising that I wanted it badly, he got it for me and hid it in a shelf with the pacifier detached. As soon as I stepped into the room I knew from the cooing that it was my doll and I vigorously hugged my dad. When I look back, that day was one of the happiest childhood days of my life. And all for a baby doll! (I had that doll for atleast 10 years, and protected it with my life).

I say and recollect all of this, when the converse of my dream is true. (Thankfully) I am the one who is pregnant and my husband and everybody in the family is fussing over me. True I had severe nausea in the first trimester and now although I have some of my energy back, it constantly feels as if I have run a marathon and now recovering. Simplest girly pleasures of life like putting on a nail-paint is prohibited, and I am not even talking about that glass of wine or an occasional Long Island Ice tea. Taking a two hour flight and going for a food bloggers meet felt like a rigorous regime and I would fall asleep in exactly 30 seconds after lying on the bed.

But it feels like a miracle. I am growing a baby from scratch. I am making a heart, a brain, a nervous system, hands, legs, lungs, and oh, you name it, I can make it! It is liberating as much as restraining, comforting as much distressing. I cant wait to hold my real Momma-cooing baby doll in my arms. Yes I know it will eventually grow up and be an annoying toddler, a terrifying teenager and eventually an independent I-know-it-all adult. But for now, I am happy to think of it as a little baby.

Rutvika


And while those blood oranges are still in the market, I had to make these orange tartlettes which have a beautiful orange flavor and color, without even slightest use of anything synthetic. It’s just the oranges. Don’t believe me? Go make it yourself.

We had done these Tartelettes A L’orange once in school in Le Cordon Bleu, and like everything which works perfectly in the cold Paris weather, and does not in the humid, hot Mumbai weather, these tarts also had to be modified. I will put up the original measurement in the notes for those in cold weather.

Orange tartlette

Tartelettes A L’orange / Orange Tartlets

It makes 2 5-inch tarts and one 8-inch tart . Alternately, it can be used to make three 6-inch tarts.

Sweet Tartlet dough-

  • 75 gms butter, cold
  • 175 gms flour
  • 75 gms powdered sugar
  • 30 gm eggs, lightly whisked (3/4th of an egg)
  • 30 gm ground almonds

What to do :

  1. Cut the butter into small pieces and take it into a bowl. Add the flour and mix it with your hands, crushing the pieces of butter in the flour.
  2. Add the almond powder and sugar. Mix with your fingers.
  3. Make a well in the centre and add the whisked egg. Mix it with your index finger.
  4. Then take the mixture on a countertop and knead it. Press the mixture with heel of your palm and push it forward. Repeat till all it comes together to form a smooth dough.
  5. Refrigerate the dough for atleast an hour so that it becomes easier to roll.
  6. Generously butter the tart moulds or any springform pan with softened but not melted butter.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 140C.
  8. Prepare a baking pan and line it with parchment paper. Place the buttered tart moulds on the pan.
  9. Roll the dough disk into a round while generously flouring the countertop.
  10. Place the tart mould over the dough and cut it 2-3 cms away from the tart ring.
  11. Pick up the cut dough disk with your rolling pin and place it on the tart mould, floured side up.
  12. Press the dough into the ring so that the sides touch the mould and get pasted. Cut out the excess on top. Repeat the same with the remaining dough and tart moulds.
  13. Bake at 140C for 15-20 minutes till the top becomes golden brown. The sides will release itself since the mould is buttered.
  14. Let it cool completely before un-moulding.

Making the tart dough

For the orange filling -

What you will need :

  • Juice and peel (zest) of two oranges
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 4 eggs
  • 300 gm sugar – divided into 200 gm + 100 gm
  • 21 gms custard powder or cornflour
  • 140 gm butter at room temperature

What to do :

  1. Get all the ingredients measured first before starting, as every next step needs to be done quickly.
  2. Take a saucepan. Add butter and orange juice and zest. Add 200 gm sugar. Put it over heat and let it come to a rolling boil.
  3. Meanwhile, in another bowl, take the egg yolks and add the remaining sugar. Whisk well. Add the custard powder and whisk again.
  4. Add the whole eggs to the egg yolk mixture and whisk till it all comes together.
  5. Then once the mixture in the saucepan is boiling, take it off the heat. Add half of this to the egg mixture and stir well. Then add back this whole egg mixture to the saucepan. And put it on heat.
  6. Whisk while it is on heat for a couple of minutes (2-3), the mixture will start to thicken. Be very careful that it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning. If that happens take it off the heat, stir well and put it back on.
  7. Once sufficiently thickened, take it out in a bowl, let it cool and then refrigerate till cold.

Assembly -

  1. Take the cooled pre-baked tart disks and fill it with the cold orange filling.
  2. Put some zest over the top.
  3. Let it cool and set in the refrigerator before serving.

Orange tartlette piece

Notes :

  • The original recipe calls for 150 gm of flour. So if in a cold dry climate, use 150 gm or 175 as mentioned above.
  • Juice of two oranges is roughly 3/4 cup. But slightly more or less can be added.