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.

French Tarte aux Pomme with pears

My grandparents came from the time when matrimonial matches were made by the elders in the family, the girl and the guy met each other once, if they were fortunate enough, and were married. And the marriages lasted. 50-60 years, till death does them apart. My grandmother and grandfather were similarly married, about 58 years back and were together till my grandmother passed away two years back. They had companionship, they were very strong as a team, raised 3 kids and supported the needs of a big joint family, while working full-time in multiple jobs. But those were simpler times, they had least expectations from each other, romantically or otherwise. In the 55 odd years that they spent together, they have hardly taken a couples-only vacation, rarely sat together sipping a cup of tea and talking about their hopes and dreams. There were no issues of compatibility, because that was never an issue. You just stick together, marriage was for a lifetime.

For my parents’ generation, things have somewhat changed. The concept of life-long marriage is still widely accepted and prevalent, but everybody wants more from their life and hence are willing to compromise the stability of marriage. They realize they were naive when they got married and hence their individual aspirations were side-tracked. But now they have the time once their kids are grown up and on their own, and can achieve those dreams. But still, this is the only way of life they know and have loved each other over the years, and hence, thankfully stick around. Together.

Then comes my current generation, where suddenly in a time span of 20-25 years, things totally changed. Everything became casual. What is marriage? Oh you like somebody, let’s get married, lets see if it works out. Arranged marriage? Sure, the guy/girl seems good enough. Lets try to see if we can make it together. If not? No problem, get a divorce and move on. You can soon marry the next person who looks good enough.

I am not cynical, but this trend deeply unsettles me. When I quit working with my previous organisation, a colleague I worked with seemed very happy with his wife of 6 months. I talk to him a year later, and he was already divorced from his wife, and was getting married to another girl in a week. I was shocked. How and when did things go so bad in 1 and half years, that they were already divorced? And doesn’t it take at-least some time to get over a marriage? Or was singlehood so dangerously unpleasant that you jump up on the next prospect and seal it?

But sometimes, it becomes a one-way street and then its really sad. One of my mom’s younger cousins was married to her husband for 7 years before the guy suddenly realised that he doesn’t love his wife anymore, and wanted to end the marriage. Simple as that. No extra-marital affair, no abusive partner, no major fights, nothing. He just fell out of love. But the woman is still deeply in love with her husband and till date, its been 5 years since he filed for a divorce, she absolutely refuses to give him one. This part of life is stuck in a limbo while they continue to lead their separate lives.

Or in case of another relative, after being married for 9 months, one day suddenly after dinner, the guy ‘dumped’ his wife at her parents house and told her it’s over. Sure, their marriage was still new and they were trying to figure out each other and used to have fights and squabbles, but it looks (from what they told us later on) that it was nothing that can’t be resolved. But that option was never considered. The girl, my cousin, feels rejected and is unable to get over it, but the guy has already started meeting other prospective girls while the divorce case and alimony, maintenance etc gets settled.

That’s how simple marriage and divorces have become today. Procedurally yes, socially yes, but what about the emotional scars it is leaving on the minds of an entire generation, whose parents had long happy marriages,  and theirs is tumbling like Humpty Dumpty off a wall?


Now some finger-licking food time.

After the delicious plum cake baked last time, I wanted to do some more fruit bakes. In my head it just feels like a healthier dessert once it has fruits in it. And when I see the loaded fruit pyramids at the fruit vendors, I can barely resist them. So with several apples and pears on hand, I decided to make a combination of Classic French Apple tart and the Pear Tarte Tatin. So presenting, the French Tarte aux Pommes, with pears :)

Pear and Apple tart

Tarte aux Pommes with pears

What you will need :

Sweet short pastry crust :

  • 200 gm all purpose flour
  • 100 gm butter, cold, cut into pieces
  • 20 gm castor sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pear Filling :

  • 2 pears, peeled, deseeded chopped
  • 30 gm butter
  • 30 gm granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • a pinch of freshly ground cinnamon

Assembly :

  • 1 unbaked tart shell
  • pear filling
  • 2 and 1/2 apples, peeled and thinly sliced
  • Butter chunks , sugar and cinnamon powder

What to do :

  • Pre-heat oven to 170C.
  • To make the short pastry crust, take the flour, cold butter pieces and sugar on a countertop and knead it with your hands, pressing the butter with the heel of your palm and incorporating it into the flour. Do it twice or thrice till all the butter has been broken down and the dough resembles sand.
  • Make a well in the centre and add the egg and vanilla. Again gently knead the dough with the heal of your plam till it all comes together.
  • Cover it with a saran/ plastic wrap and refrigerate for atleast 10 minutes before rolling it into a disk.
  • Meanwhile, make the pear filling. melt butter in a pan, add vanilla and cinnamon. Once the butter is melted, add the sugar and heat it on a low flame till the sugar dissolves.
  • Then add the chopped pears and continue to cook it for another 5-6 minutes till the pears have cooked and all the liquid has evaporated. Take it off heat and keep it aside.
  • Take the dough from the fridge, knead it slightly and then roll a disk about 10-11 inches in diameter. Keep the counter well floured while rolling or it will stick.
  • Use a 8-9 inch tart ring or a small lipped cake pan and place in gently on the dough disk. Cut a round about 3-4 cms away from the ring and remove the ring.
  • Generously butter the tart ring from the inside with softened butter.
  • Lift the dough disk with a rolling pin and place it on the tart ring, floured side up. That side of the disk which was on top should now be the bottom, touching the tart ring.

Making the tart dough

  • Flatten the dough inside the ring with your thumb and cut the remaining portion coming out on top of the ring with a knife.  Pinch it with a pincer for decoration (optional).
  • FIll the unbaked tart shell with the pear filling.
  • Arrange the sliced apples on the tart in a circular roundabout way.
  • If you like it pour some apple wine on the tart, and place chunks of butter on the apples and drizzle it with sugar and cinnamon in the centre of the tart.

Arranging the tart

  • Bake at 170C for 30 minutes, till the tart shell is baked and the apples look done.
  • Once baked, release the tart from the ring with a knife, unmold it and let it cool completely before cutting.

Tart slice

Notes :

  1. Add a teaspoon of water to the dough if you think it is very dry while kneading it.
  2. The dough is refrigerated for 10 minutes before rolling into a disk, so that it becomes firmer and hence easier to roll. Then it is left at room temperature after making the disk for it to stabilise, so that it does not shrink too much in the oven while baking.

Rutvika Charegaonkar

Dimpled Cinnamon Plum Cake

Like a lot of kids our age, me and my brother went to a day-care or a baby-sitter for most part of our childhood. But unlike some kids who easily adjust to the new surrounding, we almost hated all those places, and every few months later, my parents would be scourging for a new place.

When I look back at it now, I realise how traumatic it must have been for my mom and dad to leave us at some stranger’s house for the whole day, especially knowing that the kids are not loving it. Many of the other kids would be delighted to be at the day-care. But somehow, we never were.

It wasn’t that those aunties or those places were particularly bad, but it felt obscure to spend the whole day at someone else’s house. I would constantly wait for the clock to tick 7’O clock, when mom would come and pick us. My dad was working as a cop who would sometimes have night duty, and then he would come pick us up as soon as he came back every morning. So as compared to others, we spent significantly less time at the daycare, but I can still feel how those 5 hours seemed like eternity.

There were a couple of times when I had run away from the daycare to my grandparents house, which was about half a kilometre away. Everyone would be then looking for me and I would be relaxing and eating cookies at my granny’s house. Naturally, I would get a fair amount of scolding from my dad once discovered, but that was still better than being in those hole-shaped houses, with 10 other kids.

We had our share of oddities. The aunty at one day-care centre was obsessed with cleanliness, but hardly applied it to herself. She would be constantly scrubbing the chairs and sofas with an unreasonably dirty cloth. I wonder what she was trying to clean, the chair or the cloth, but she would constantly ask us to move while continuing her cleaning regimen. Her teeth were like chessboard with yellow highlights. And her thick eye glasses did not look like they had been cleaned in the last year. Ah, maybe that was the reason she felt everything was dirty. Her glasses were the ones that needed cleaning, oh but well never mind. Apart from that she was a warm lady and would gently coax us to complete our homework , while the television loudly blared in the background.

Once I remember, the lady at one centre was extremely religious and on certain days when she was fasting, she would get possessed by a deity / devi. She would go in a trance and make jerky movements and weird noises, her eyes would roll and arms would frantically flap, while doing a dance. I would always be shit scared. Even now, 20 years later, her image haunts me in my dreams.

But anyway, eventually we grew up and could manage it on our own at home. But what a ruckus we created by the time mom came back.

Now when I look at my friends and their kids, I feel relieved that the kids will stay with the grandparents, which is way better than any daycare centre. Thankfully, for us, my parents and in-laws are both willing and eager to manage our kids when me and my husband will be working.

Or my heart would be breaking, everyday, into a million little pieces.


Dimpled Plum Cinnamon Cake

This time I am sharing a recipe of a beautiful summer cake. The rich plum imparts a very earthy flavor to the cake. And what a lovely color of the plum juice, seeping into the cake.

A friend Manish from SaffronAmbrosia, brought this cake to my notice and I have been patiently waiting for plums to show up in the market. This cake is best made with fresh fruits, be it plums, or peaches or nectarines. It’s a fairly adaptive recipe and any type of compatible spices, zest and nuts can be added.

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

A slice of plum cake

What you will need :

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon corn flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 5 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar/ demerara sugar
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola or safflower
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 8 plums, halved and pitted
  • 5-6 whole cherries

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Prepare an 8 inch round or square baking tray by lightly greasing the pan, then coating it with flour and then lining with a parchment paper. Alternately you can also use a springform pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together flour, corn flour, baking powder and cinnamon and keep it aside.
  3. In another bowl, beat the eggs with an electric beater (or a whisk), till it is pale in color. Add the brown sugar and castor sugar and beat till it becomes creamy, for about 3-4 minutes. This method is called cremagé, and it greatly helps in making the cake fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, while fully incorporating it.
  5. Then add the oil, lemon zest, vanilla extract and beat it till it all comes together.
  6. Now with a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients in the wet ingredients, and mix till no streaks of flour are seen.
  7. Pour this batter into the prepared pan and then arrange halved plums on top, cut side up. Gently press the plums into the batter. Press the cherries into the gaps.
  8. Bake the cake for 30-40 minutes, till a skewer inserted comes out clean. Mine got done in 30 minutes, so be watchful.
  9. Once baked, take the cake out and let it sit in the pan for 15 minutes while the plum juice seeps back into the cake.
  10. Gently take it out with the parchment paper and let it cool on a baking tray completely before cutting.
  11. Sprinkle the cake with some powdered sugar, if you wish.

Juicy plum cake

Notes:

  • The cake cannot be inverted and hence it is essential to use a parchment paper or simply use a springform pan.
  • You can replace the lemon zest with orange zest and cinnamon with cardamom, or as you like.

A platter of plum cake

Cheers!

Rutvika

P.S : This dimpled plum cake goes to the Kitchenaid India contest for the upcoming Bloggers meet. Stay tuned to check out other plum recipes.

Mentoring : An everyday walk. And Flan de mango – the last of this season

It is true that every day, in every walk of life we are learning something new. Something that you didn’t know a day before, but something that you can’t live tomorrow without. Most of it is self-awareness, but the nudge to move towards that zone of being aware, is an external one. Sometimes I think you yourself are your best mentor; but of-course that would be being too full of yourself. So we assign the ‘mentorship’ to a teacher, a coach, a boss, a friend or even an author whose writing played a major role in your belief system. Positive or negative, they all had a role to play in what you are today and I am thankful to them, to say the least.

I remember, till the seventh grade, I disliked mathematics. And then it changed, because I was in love with my new mathematics teacher. She was so warm, kind and witty, that I had to do well in her subject. And at the end of that year, I genuinely started liking those numbers, and went on to become an accountant. Of course, all the Sin-Cos-Tan is now lost on me, but I knew that these numbers can be manipulated and that I could do it.

Few years later, in the first month of my internship, I was assigned to work with a hated big, fat, snobby boss. He asked me to study a particular accounting standard and would grill me at the end of every day about my learnings and no answer seemed to please him. He constantly counter questioned and looked at me with a cultivated look of hopelessness that still scares me. I was 19, had cleared the difficult entrance test in the first go and considered myself at-least an average student. But this guy, within a week, shattered the very base of my belief. Predictably, after about 10 days, I broke down one evening in the office. And then suddenly, he was like this big daddy, trying to console me, explaining how he was “preparing me” for the future. I wanted to punch him in his gut. I didn’t care about those stupid accounting standards, but I knew that this is a corrosive man, I needed no association with him. I almost managed to stay away from him for the rest of my 3 year internship, and hence preserved my sanity. He has damaged a lot of my friends by constantly assuring them that they are no good. Somebody needs to shut him up.

At a deeper level, in a rougher way I realised that some people will try to pull you down. You have to recognise them and run as far away from them as possible, because arguing with them is just not worth it.

But soon after, I took up a job in a private bank and luckily for me, I reported to a sensitive and mature lady, the VP of our audit department. She soon realised, even before I knew it, that I needed freedom and independence to work my best. Those two years, I was at the peak of my performance, firstly because I loved my work and secondly because I could think and audit in a way no-one had before. She subconsciously ingrained out-of-box thinking in me, by making me believe that I could do it. Had it not been for her, I would have been a mediocre clerk in some bank, assuming that I could be only as good as the person besides me.

Another very crucial role in my mental set-up has been played by Ayn Rand. Basically it felt as if she was talking to me through her books and telling me (in her own words) -

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark in the hopeless swamps of the not-quite, the not-yet, and the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish in lonely frustration for the life you deserved and have never been able to reach. The world you desire can be won. It exists.. it is real.. it is possible.. it’s yours.”

Hang on to everyone who tells you that. Because those people are precious. In this dog eat dog world, sometimes all you need is that word of encouragement which will restore your belief in yourself. And yes, the person next to you needs it as much as you do. Go on, tell him that he worked well, tell her that she is right in taking a firm stand, pick up that child and teach him a magic trip, or just help fix that little girl’s broken doll.

It always helps. The ball is now in your court.


Well, the Indian monsoon is almost here, and to cherish the mangoes one last time before they disappear for this season, I made the Mango flan. It is delicate yet robust, smooth but chunky and colorful yet natural.

Flan de mango

Presenting : Flan de Mango first brought to my notice by a friend Jasmine Gandhi on CAL

What you will need :

  • 1 cup mango puree
  • ½ can condensed milk
  • 2 tbsp cornflour
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup milk

What to do:

  1. Dissolve the corn flour in 2 tbsp milk so that there are no clumps. Then combine it with the rest of the milk, mango puree, condensed milk and eggs.
  2. Scoop the batter into four-six ramekins or metal molds.
  3. Pre-heat the oven to 170C.
  4. Take a large shallow pan and fill it halfway with water. Put it in the oven while it is being preheated.
  5. Now place the four-six moulds in the pan with the warm water.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes till the flan is set.
  7. Let it cool at room temperature before putting in the fridge to cool for 2-3 hours.
  8. Before serving, release the flan from the sides of the mold with a knife and turn it upside down on a serving plate.

Mango flan single serving

Notes :

  • By placing the molds in a shallow pan filled water, we are essentially creating a water bath. This helps provide moisture while baking, so that the flan does not dry up, but still gets firm.
  • While un-molding, if it is unwilling to leave the sides, gently heat the mold on a gas flame before turning upside down.