Meringue cookies. And a word of advice : Be paranoid for your daughter.

You have to be paranoid about your daughter’s safety when she is a young girl.

My mom was, and her mom before that. It is almost alright to think that the big bad world is out to violate your daughter and you have to protect her. Especially when she is becoming a teen and in the early teenage years.

Since as early as I was seven, my mom used to tell me that nobody should kiss me on the cheeks or be overtly affectionate as people are with little girls. Of course, most people do it lovingly and don’t have any ulterior motive, but kids have to be given black and white rules for them to be able to follow them. I might have missed out on getting tickled by an adoring uncle, but it definitely saved me from a lot of uncalled groping for sure.

I remember one of my father’s friends and his wife used to come home often after dinner for a cup of coffee. He was nice guy, extremely fond of me, but insisted on lifting me in his arms and putting me on his lap and smothering me with pecks on my cheeks. My dad told him to stop once or twice, but he didn’t. And it is not a surprise that we saw less and less of him over the coming years.

In fact me and my six-years-younger brother were even told to not let anyone inside the house when alone, except my parents (of course) and my grandparents. I have offended many an aunt by asking them to come back after some time as mom and dad are not at home. They would say my mom was unnecessarily strict, but she stood to her rule. It is impossible to make kids differentiate between whom to let in and whom to not, and hence a blanket rule of not allowing anyone inside when they were not at home was a better suited one.

Despite being so careful, I had a couple of “uncomfortable” instances. But I reacted to them very wisely, if I say so myself, because of the awareness my mother had created in my mind. Once at a hiking summer camp, we were all sitting around a campfire and had blankets on our lap as it was cold. A ‘sir’ or a hiking instructor came and sat besides me. Soon, his hand was crawling under the blanket towards me. I squirmed, became restless. He kept on. But within a minute or two, my brain kicked my legs and I abruptly stood up. And went back to the girls tent to sleep. For several years after that I could not articulate what happened, but it stayed in my head and I knew for sure that what I did was right.

One evening when I was eighteen, and had recently started riding a scooter motorcycle, a relative asked if I could take him for a pillion ride. I was proud to show off my riding skills and agreed immediately. Once out of sight of my parents, he started moving his hands up and down my chest.  I was angered and I brushed off his hand. He said he wanted to hold me to prevent from falling off the bike. He again started grabbing my waist and my boobs. At eighteen, I obviously knew what was his intention. I turned around, came home and proclaimed that I will never take that uncle with me on the scooter again. My mom understood, and drove him away. I still see him on family functions, and I want to kick his arse, and may be some day I will.

Thankfully, that was the extent of those awful experiences I had. And I am glad I had these minor incidents, because of which I was sensitized to the issue of child molestation. I was aware of what is a good touch and what is bad touch. I think that helped and prevented any further mishaps.

Whoever is reading this, it is my sincere request – “Talk to you daughter and be paranoid of her safety. And believe in whatever she tells you. It may be slightly exaggerated because of the highly imaginative brain, but believe what she is saying. That it.”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : If you wish to share your experience or add some more to the word of caution, drop a comment, it would be good to know.


Meringue : Oh light and merry meringue

Meringue cookies

Last Sunday, I participated in a bake sale organised by The Bake Collective for raising funds for a municipal school for special children. In three hours, 12-15 volunteers sold the delish home-baked goodies and collected Rs. 30,00 which went directly to the Urmi foundation. I made these colorful meringues drops and packaged them in 30 smiley boxes (the yellow smiley boxes in the first picture), and they were gone in 2 hours :) What a delight it is to see people buy something you baked.

TBC evening

Colorful Meringue Cookies

(No oil, no butter, no egg yolk.)

This recipe makes 60-70 meringue drops.

What you will need

  • 240 gm castor sugar + 1 tablespoon for mixing color
  • 120 gm egg whites
  • Vanilla, lemon, peppermint, strawberry essence (any one or all)

What to do:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 100C.
  2. Separate the egg-whites and the egg-yolks. We only need egg whites for this.
  3. Take the egg-whites in a bowl and start whisking the eggs till foamy and till it forms very soft peaks.
  4. Take the tablespoon of sugar in a separate bowl and mix in a few drops of the flavoring essence and a few drops of food color.
  5. Gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites, a tablespoon at a time (or in a slow, steady stream) until all the sugar is incorporated and it starts developing hard peaks.
  6. Incorporate the color and essence mixed sugar and whisk with an electric beater or a stand mixer for 5-6 minutes till the egg whites stand stiff and become glossy.
  7. Transfer to a piping bag with nozzle 8 or 10 and pipe drops of meringue on a baking silicone sheet or parchment paper lined on a baking tray.
  8. Bake for about 25-30 minutes till the drops detach easily from the baking sheet and feel light. Break open a meringue drop to check that it is fully cooked even at the centre, or continue baking for 3-4 minutes more.
  9. Cool completely before eating.

meringue cookies from a jar

Notes :

  • 1 egg generally weighs 50 gm. 20 gm yolk and 30 gm white. So for this you will need about 4 eggs. And the thumb rule is that sugar should be generally half the weight of the egg whites.
  • I used strawberry essence for pink meringues, lemon for yellow, peppermint for green and vanilla for white meringues. The meringues look lovely when pastel colored so use food color sparingly. Or you can skip it altogether if you wish.

If you wish to be a part of the Bake Sale which is organised 2-3 times a year, go on and like their Facebook page, or just go and show some love :)

 

 

Mango Cupcakes and what would it have been had I failed.

I have never failed an exam in my life.

Does that mean I am super brilliant? Heck no. That just means I haven’t taken up enough challenges in my life. It means that I have stayed in my comfort zone , doing things I have been sure about. I had even registered for some exams, and chickened out at the last-minute thinking I am not prepared, I am sure gonna fail. Hence there was no exam which I took and failed. But there is a major flaw in this system. It restricts my view of the world. Though not blatantly, but in my head it makes me think “Oh, I am quite cool”. And there goes that.

When I gave my Chartered Accountant (Indian CPA) exam, luckily for me, I cleared it all in the first attempt. But what if I had not? Would I have had the guts and the patience to take it again? or would I have chosen another career path? Would I have excelled far better at something else or become a sloppy worker, just going through the day? There is no way to know.

In school whenever anyone asked me “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I always answered heroic professions like a criminal lawyer, a journalist etc. And apparently, I answered with such conviction that even now when I meet someone from school, they are shocked to realize I did not pursue law or journalism. How and when accounting profession came in my life is kinda fuzzy in my head. I just registered for the first exam because I think everybody in my college was doing so, and cleared that exam, the next and the next and here I am.

Don’t get me wrong, I am mighty proud of my profession and the security a valued degree provides me. But as I said, it put me in a comfort zone I am reluctant to get out of. But sometimes, I get a strong urge in my heart to do something extremely challenging. Something which I have an equal chance of failing at. Something which will make me sit up and be scared about. Something which brings out the edge in me.

My brother is currently taking entrance exams to get into the MBA colleges. In one exam he scored 99 percentile, which means he is better than 99% of the population taking the exam. You would think that life is set right? No. The day and age where we live, the college admissions are closing at a whooping 99.4 percentile. How can you beat that? It is so fucking crazy, that I feel I am luckier having passed all that and be here. So there is no room to complain, but there is this feeling of insufficiency in my heart. It feels I can do much better, I need some push. To do more.

But I also feel there was a time and stage in life to do all that. Now I am 28, married for 3 years and wishing to take personal life to the “next stage”. Yeah, yeah I know that shouldn’t change anything, considering how liberal and encouraging my husband and in-laws are. But it does. That does not mean it is lost on me. May be I will do something which will (pleasantly) surprise the hell out of me. But for now, I wonder “what would I have done had I failed in the CA exam?”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : Do you ever wonder what you would have done, had you failed in one of life’s important stages and how different life would have been? Do write in the comments section, I would love to read.


Mango Cupcakes with Mango frosting:

Mangoes are back! Summer in India gets extremely hot, but it brings the luscious oh so sweet mangoes and hence I am not complaining. The color, the fragrance, and then the eclectic taste. Last year I made the no-bake mango cheesecake, and this year the vibrant super soft mango cupcakes.

Mango cupcakes

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup salted butter
  • 3/4 cup castor sugar
  • 3/4 cup ripe mango puree (about 2 mangoes pureed)
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoon milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
  • a pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

For the frosting:

  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbsp softened butter (not melted)
  • 2-3 tbsp mango puree

What to do :

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F / 170C. Line muffin pans with paper.
  2. Beat butter till it is pale in color and then add the sugar. Beat till light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time and fully incorporate.
  4. In a separate bowl, take flour and baking powder. mix it well together, to prevent biting into a chunk of baking powder.
  5. Fold the dry ingredients with the butter mixture.
  6. Add the mango puree, grated ginger and milk. Continue whisking till it is fully homogeneous.
  7. Pour it into a pan and bake for 20 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  8. To make the frosting, mix together icing sugar, butter and mango puree. Add more icing sugar if you want stiffer frosting and more mango puree if a smoother frosting.
  9. Pipe the frosting on the cupcakes and eat. :)

mango cupcake platter

Notes :

  • The cupcakes stay well at room temperature in air-tight container for upto 4 days. If keeping in the refrigerator, slightly heat in the microwave before eating.
  • You can skip the ginger, but it brings out the mango flavor beautifully.
  • Canned mango puree can also be used to make the cupcakes.

Drool worthy mango cupcake

Baked chicken blankets and a letter to the soon-to-be-born. Not related those two.

My best friend and my favorite cousin are going to have a baby in just a couple of months. I am incredibly fond of both these women but work and distance separates me from meeting them as often as I would have liked. It limits the opportunities that I have to tell their soon-to-be-born kids of how kick-ass their moms are. And how this is the one and only time when they can see their mom at the workplace, in meetings, experiencing the daily conundrum of life, be a part of everything that’s going on and still be aloof.

I want to tell those little ones (I am not sure what I should call them, the doctor also doesn’t refer to them as babies till they are born, so I will be calling them little ones), that -

“Mommy is incredibly proud to host you for 9 months as a part of her and this is the time when you will be undividedly hers, and she yours. Of course, later on you will be a priority too, don’t grumble in there, your mommy can feel it. But while you are cocooned inside, have a fun time. Your mom is eating different foods. I am sure you must be playing a guessing game of ‘what-mom-ate’ based on the tastes and smells you get. Yes you are right, there are a lot of different tastes, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, but momma is protecting you from the bitter taste, and she always will.

Little one, I have known your mom since she was a very young. She is sweet yet determined, organised yet crazy and loving yet stern. I wish to tell you these things because at times you may find she is talking mildly in a soft voice and sometimes as if she is commanding an army. Dont worry little one, it is just the situation that demands your mom to act that way. But in her heart she is always the soft girl.

It is still a few months before you arrive and yet all arrangements for you have been made. That doesn’t mean you should hurry up, oh darling, take your own time in there. Because you will be spending the next 100 years on this land, but just the nine months inside. So fully utilize this time, get in a lot of nutrition (mommy is really eating for two) and become a big fat baby while you come out. Recognize your mom’s scent, hear the way her stomach grumbles when she is hungry, feel the tremble of her shiver when she sees a scary thing and notice her goosebumps when she reads something emotional. She is your shield little one, and yet she will let a few things seep in so that you are not utterly shocked once you come out.

You dont know the concept of gravity yet, but when you do, you will be able to appreciate how your mom held you up in her stomach, and how her back must have hurt. Of course the version you are seeing of her is the slower one currently, because she has to protect you. Oh but let me tell you, she is one fire-brand. You haven’t seen her kick a football so hard that it goes out of the field or watched her get into a train full of people, where it seems not another person can get in. You haven’t seen her hop on a bike and zoom off with your dad or brave the snow and dashingly go off to buy groceries. And you will see how once you are 2 years old and running around, she can run behind you but way faster than you. She can toss you in the air and swoop you up, and you will feel as if you are flying. She will tickle the hell out of you and laugh so hard, that you will think this is the best moment in life.

She will do a lot of things for you little one, but you are doing good too. Your kicks reassure her, your swelling size makes her confident. Uncomfortable, but confident. Your movement makes her feel alive inside and the nudge of your toe lets her know you are eager and connecting. She can feel your heartbeat and that is what keeps her going.

Love you little one, more than you can ever know. “

Rutvika Charegaonkar

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country


Stuffed chicken blankets

This one is again from that very old book “The Good-housekeeping” picked up from a flea market in Mumbai. I am in love with that book. Such delicious things with the simplest illustrations.

Chicken with skewers

This is a simple way to bake chicken and it tastes great with the peanut stuffing. Dont miss out on the sauce, which is so full of flavor.

Serves : 2

What you will need :

  • 400 gm (4-5) chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • paprika, salt to taste
  • 3/4 tbsp plain flour
  • 1/2 chicken stock cube, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup milk

For the stuffing :

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1-2 garlic cloves mashed
  • 3 tbsp salted peanuts, crushed
  • chopped parsley/coriander/mint/basil
  • salt and pepper

Stuffing the chicken

What to do :

  1. Wash the chicken breasts and flatten them with a rolling-pin. You can put it in a ziplock bag and hit it couple of times with a rolling-pin to flatten or tenderize it.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
  3. Make the stuffing. In a pan, melt butter, add garlic and saute onions till translucent. Stir in the remaining ingredients namely peanuts, some salt and generous amount of pepper. Saute for a couple of minutes and then add chopped herbs. Take it off the heat and reserve.
  4. Take one (or two) flattened chicken breast and fill it int he centre with the stuffing. Wrap the sides over the stuffing and insert a skewer or toothpick through the chicken breast to make it stay wrapped.
  5. Lightly grease a baking pan and place the stuffed breasts seam down in the pan.
  6. Make a mixture with the 1 tbsp butter, paprika, and little salt.
  7. Brush the chicken breasts with this mixture. Bake at 200C for about 20 minutes till tender, occasionally basting it with the butter mixture and the juices let out by the chicken while baking.
  8. Once baked, take the fat from the baking pan into a saucepan. Heat gently and stir in chicken stock, plain flour and milk. Cook for a couple of minutes till the sauce thickens.
  9. To serve, remove the toothpicks/skewers and serve on a warm plate. Spoon over the sauce and garnish with chopped herbs.

Chicken with sauce

Note :

  1. Chicken stock and butter all have salt. So be careful while adding additional salt.
  2. You can stuff the chicken with whatever you like, just let it not be too mushy. the peanuts here provide a nice crunch, and can be replaced with any other nuts.

What if I were to die today? I am not dying, and hence the orange cupcakes .

Whenever I am reading a book or watching a movie, I tend to empathize myself with some character in it. In fact, the movie or book becomes likeable only if there is a role which I imagine myself playing. Currently I am reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch, a true story, where Randy, a professor is detected with terminal pancreatic cancer, and has about 6 months to live. With kids aged 5, 3 and one, he wants to be able to leave something for them, through which they will know their father later on and hence the last lecture which he gave is recorded in a beautifully written book. I had a stream of tears rolling down my eyes even as I read the first chapter.

It made me think. I am generally the one who would shy away from all discussions of death and dying. It makes me very uncomfortable. But his writing style is such, that I couldn’t help but think ‘what if I was in his place?’ What if I were to give the ‘last lecture or write a last blog-post’ of my life? Think for a second. Scary, isn’t it?

Well, I am 28 right now. I have a supportive family, an amazing husband, good career, and a hobby worth pursuing. If something were to happen to me right now, why am I circumventing? , lets face it, if I die now, it would be a terrible shame. If it’s a fatal accident, it would be easier on me than on others, but I wouldn’t have said my last good-byes. And if there is a prolonged ‘about-to-die’ period, the good-byes would become nausea-tic. So I don’t know which is the more convenient method, but dying at such an age, is quite a disaster.

I am yet to have kids, yet to hold my baby in my hands and feel its soft touch on my skin. Yet to talk gibberish to the little one and look at those inquisitive eyes and try to answer his/her questions. Yet to bake birthday cakes for my little darling and I haven’t even thought of a name to call him/her, which I can repeat a thousand times before I can no longer do it.

But then I think, it would be pretty bad to leave a little kid after me and not be there. So rather than me having these little pleasures of life, it would be easier if the kid didn’t have to go through life not knowing a mother. So I pass on that one.

Apart from an unborn kid, I think my husband will miss me the most. And I , him. Since we got married, about three years back, we have done several exciting things which I hadn’t done before. Traveled different countries, hosted several family functions, went on high-altitude hiking trips, attended a dancing class, experimented different foods, and yes, got closer each day. I learnt to be much more patient than I ever was, and he learnt to feel different emotions based on the weather, the surrounding aromas and the aura of the situation. He is a handsome, smart guy and wouldn’t be difficult for him to find another girl. But I know him. He wouldn’t. And he would miss out on the joys of growing old together with someone. I don’t know if my ghost would be happier knowing that my husband did not replace me, or sad thinking two lives were wasted. He could have lived his life, and lived a little for me too.

And then I think my mom will miss me severely. I am her first-born, birthed prematurely in the seventh month. She had to nurse me with more care than her peers, as I was in the negative scale of health. From there, she brought me to where I am now. My dying at 28 would mean all her extravagant efforts at preparing me for the life to come had gone in vain. Our parents live through us, fill their hearts with our achievement and their eyes with tears for our sorrows. It would be traumatic for them to lose kids, at any age, be it 10, 20 or 70. I can see that.

My friends and family will also miss me. I don’t have too many friends, but those that I do have, are very close. Someone might even name their child after me, and perhaps my name will keep resonating in the world even after I am gone.

And lastly, I will miss myself. I have so much to do yet. Write, bake, learn a new language, sit with a stranger old lady and have her home-cooked food, and again, write. Of stories and people. Of adventures of life and of mishaps. Of love and of life.

There is still a lot to be.

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : I cried while writing this post and I had to remind myself that I am not actually dying. This is a hypothetical discussion. But I cry nevertheless.

P.P.S : An astrologer had predicted that I would live to be 88. Precisely.


Whoa! That was some deep shit. Let us lighten up the mood with some orange cupcakes with orange frosting.

The orange flavor is scintillating, and the juice gives it an amazing moist lightness. The frosting is made with very little salted butter and a lot of orange juice along-with icing sugar.

Orange cupcakes

Orange Cupcakes with orange frosting

Makes about 18-20 cupcakes.

What you will need:

  • 1 and 3/4 cup (200 gms) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup castor sugar
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 large eggs, separated, whites beaten stiff
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 100 gm softened butter

For frosting :

  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp grated orange rind
  • 2-3 tbsp orange juice

What to do:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 180C. Grease and line a muffin pan with paper cups.
  2. Combine butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla and cream together thoroughly.
  3. Mix flour and baking powder together in a separate mixing bowl.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients – 1/3rd at a time, alternating with adding portions of orange juice to the creamed mixture.
  5. Then fold int he beaten egg whites.
  6. Spoon the batter into cupcakes till 1/2 full.
  7. Bake for 12-15 minutes till a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Be careful to not over-bake.
  8. For making the frosting, mix all the ingredients together starting with 2 tablespoon of orange juice. If frosting is too thick add additional tablespoon on orange juice.
  9. Spread the frosting over the cooled cupcakes with a pastry bag or with a spoon.
  10. Decorate with orange rind.

cupcakes with frostingNotes :

  • I added a tiny bit of orange food color (just the tip of a knife) for the orange frosting. You can totally skip the added color. likewise I used fresh orange juice, you can use canned juice, but without added sugar. And these cupcakes taste delicious even without the frosting.
  • If using unsalted butter, add 1/2 tsp salt to the frosting.

Homemade white loaf bread with poppy seeds

I am a sucker for letters, old notes, postcards, greeting cards, newspaper cuttings, travel plan notes, my old diary entries, photos cut out from magazines, wrappers of gifted chocolates and also dried roses and other flowers.

I found all of that yesterday while cleaning my cupboard. When I got married, I had discarded a lot of stuff. Some which was awkward and some irrelevant. But still there are two big folders full of such ‘junk’. And I love it.

As kids we were encouraged to make cards on our friends birthdays, write little notes for special occasions etc. and I guess the habit stayed on. Might have even taken a different route, at times. I remember the first love letter I got was when I was 13. I vaguely remember the guy, but what I prominently remember is the way it was delivered to me. Through a long chain of friends. And then I had to hide it, fearing my mom would find out about it. And eventually I threw that letter away, because of the very little sense it made. Now when I think back, I feel I should have kept it. For the letters’ sake. And for posterity.

I also have an insane amount of newspaper clippings. I followed 2-3 writers very diligently then, and back in those times, newspapers were not available online. I know it sounds archaic, but that’s the truth. 12-15 years back, you had to wait for Tuesday for your favorite author’s article and it was available for just that day, if you didn’t cut it and save. Or the next day it would be gone as a packing for lunchbox. So I have loads of crap from Sapna Bhavnani, Cyrus Merchant and others who I am embarrassed to admit now.

And then there is an equally crazy number of greeting cards. Many a times, cards gifted by me and my brother to my parents, have come back to my folder. And I have preserved them. One day I will return them back to my parents but till then both of us are satisfied knowing that they exist. The birthday cards are sometimes funny, sometimes with roses and sometimes very emotional. Wholly depends on who gave it, and when. Because even if people remain the same, the relationships go through a curve, before stabilizing (if they ever do).

Then there are letters from my close friends and the diary entries. Those letters and diary posts address some of the most confusing, problematic situations of those times. Namely fights with parents (remember it is the teenage that I am talking about, not that I didn’t fight with them later on, but teenage was the best (sorry, worst) ). Every older me feels how stupid the younger me was, based on the letters and the diary entries. And on several occasions I have loudly exclaimed in my head – “Did i write THAT?”. But the ink on paper clearly says I did. And I am sure, tomorrow when I read my blog posts, I will be wondering to myself “Oh, how naive of me!”.

The best two things which I found were two postcards. One from my best friend from Malaysia, where she said how she missed me the most when she was having fun (isn’t that strange? You generally miss people when you are sad) and the other one was from another friend trekking in South America. Where he calls me a hippie soul like himself. (I cherish that comment so much, because I am generally known as boring). These two took the time out on a vacation and posted the cards, what more could I ask for?

Nothing much.

Rutvika Charegaonkar

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————–White Loaf Bread with Poppy seeds

Makes  two 9-5 inch loaves.

This recipe has been taken from The Bread Bible. The book talks in detail about making bread and its intricacies. If you are seriously into bread, go buy it. I picked up the white loaf to experiment and master the skills of bread baking. It is the most basic of breads, but it’s excellent for breakfast.

bread loaf sliced

I have adapted the recipe to suit Indian hot climate and the humidity. if you are in a colder climate, restrict to 5 and 1/2 cups of flour, if in a hotter climate use 6 cups. Also, I used instant yeast in place of  dried yeast and made adjustments accordingly.

Working with yeast

Instant yeast starts foaming in 10 minutes after adding warm water and sugar. Only then it is ready to use.

What you will need :

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • pinch of sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup warm milk
  • 1 stick/ 1/2 cup/ 110 gms salted butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 6 cups all-purpose flour divided in 2 cups + 3 cups
  • 1 egg + 1 tablespoon milk for the egg wash
  • 2 tablespoon poppy seeds

What to do :

  1. Pour warm water in a small bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar over the surface. Stir to dissolve it and let it stand at room temperature until foamy, about 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk milk, butter, salt, 2 cups of flour and the yeast mixture. Beat hard to combine.
  3. Then add remaining flour; 1/2 cup at a time, beating with a wooden spoon after each addition till a shaggy dough that clears the side of the dough is formed.
  4. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface  and knead for 3-5 minutes until dough is smooth and satiny and springs back when pressed.
  5. Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn once to coat and cover with a plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature to be doubled in size. About 1 and 1/2 hours.
  6. Gently deflate the dough. Turn it onto a floured surface. Cut it into half and you can refrigerate one half in a plastic wrap for using after day or two.
  7. Grease a 9-5 inch loaf pan. Form the dough half into a standard loaf. It will come upto about less than half of the pan. Cover with a plastic wrap and again let it rise for 30-45 minutes, till doubled.
  8. Pre-heat oven at 190C for 20 minutes. (See note)
  9. For the egg glaze, beat the egg and milk together. Brush on the loaf and while it is wet, drizzle a tablespoon of poppy seeds on top.
  10. Place in centre rack and bake for 35-40 minutes till the loaf has browned on top. Tap on the dough (careful it is hot), to see if it sounds hollow.
  11. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool before slicing.
  12. Spread a layer of cheese or some butter and jam and have a fresh home-made (by you!) slice of bread.

Loaf with jam and butter

Notes :

  1. For baking a bread, it is essential that you pre-heat oven for at least 20 minutes. Breads react very badly to cold temperature.
  2. You will have to judge the amount of flour required on the stickiness of dough. But generally 5 1/2 to 6 cups is perfect.
  3. It’s not that difficult. Don’t get intimidated. I can say that because I was very scared for a long time to bake bread. But its easy. And feel the dough, smell the yeast and hear the hollow sound of baked loaf and you will be fine.

Pear and Chocolate cake and Autumn Friends

When we were growing up, (I often refer to I as we, because in those days, me and my best friend did a lot of collective thinking, which you can read now), we always believed that – People come in your life either for a reason, for a season or for a lifetime. We even sat down and classified the people in our lives in those three categories. Of course, some people who we thought were in for a lifetime, went out of season as the monsoon came to an end and some came in for really fucked up reasons, which we found later on. But back then we were very happy with our generalization. Albeit, very specific one.

I was sure mom and dad were in it for a lifetime and thankfully for us, we came from a generation, where they really do. Together in it. For a lifetime and beyond. Of course they had their fights and the really bad days, when you are asked to pick sides. “Who do you want to stay with if we go our separate ways?” Me and my brother would as-a-matter-of-fact say that we want to live in this house. So we will stay with whoever stays here. Materialistic? hell no. We knew in our hearts that this is just a conversation and it wont come to that. Ever. And so we played along, and rather than choosing sides, we chose something which cannot be asked to choose a side. That’s being animatedly inanimate.

But, then there was a fine line between reason and season. And many a times some people could be classified into both categories at the same time. Like a friend who openly proclaimed that relationships come with a shelf life. And perhaps she also wanted to look like the cool one amongst us dorks. So there was a season when she technically paraded as our dear friend, but it was as well for a reason. I knew in my heart that this one wouldn’t last a long time, and boy, I was right.

The same thing goes with the guys who came in life. It might be just a crush, a random date or even a boyfriend. I though everyone is in for a long haul, but I was fool-hardy. And näive. But also glad.

Mostly the reason and season ones left a dent in the heart, a crack in the brain or at the least shattered a well-believed belief. No but wait, that was the primary reason we came up with this theory. So that there wont be anymore heartaches and tear stings. So classifying folks from the beginning meant that we dint really give a shit about they stayed or left, and if they were there, then for no matter how long. Because they were already supposed to leave and any staying on was a bonus.

But these were also the ones who taught me the most. Or held my hand in a difficult situation and led me through. Like one dear colleague, who helped me a lot during the most intense career examination of my life, and then disappeared. Or was kicked out. No way to find out if he was playing the reason season game or if I was. So its a little tricky, my friend. In somebody else’s mind (I think they must be atleast a dozen) I am the leaver. The girl who was there for a nice little spring to get help to pick a few apples. And then gone.

I thought about all of this again now, because after a really long time I made a new friend. A girl, who thinks a lot like I do, and shares the same love for rebellious characters. Now once again, I think (hope) it is for a lifetime. Or at-least for some solid reason. Or may be a few seasons? Who knows. I will have to wait and find out.


Pear and Chocolate Cake

On a sweeter note, baked pears are beautiful. They are soft, warm and fuzzy. And put into an intensely chocolate cake held together by a simple tart at the base. It’s a flavor ride in each bite.

Pear chocolate cake

Recipe adapted from a non-descript book titled simply – ‘Food Lovers Chocolate Book’. That leads me to believe good things in life come without a band-baaja.

chocolate cake with base

Makes a 9 inch cake to feed 4-10 people. Depends on how much you eat. really.

What you will need:

For the base:

  • 60 gm butter, cold and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 140 gm all purpose flour
  • 50 gm castor sugar
  • 2 egg yolks

For the filling:

  • 3 ripe pears
  • 1 egg
  • 75 gm butter
  • 75 gm brown sugar
  • 20 gm ground almonds
  • 75 gm flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 25 gm dark cocoa powder
  • 50 ml milk

What to do :

  1. Combine all the base ingredients together, quickly knead into a dough, wrap in sarine wrap or a damp towel and refrigerate for atleast half an hour.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 190ºC. Grease and line a 9 inch springform pan for easy unmolding of the cake.
  3. Roll out the dough to a circle on a lightly floured surface and line the base of the prepared pan.
  4. For the filling, peel the pears, halve lengthways and remove the cores.
  5. Cream the butter and sugar together till pale. Beat in the egg.
  6. Stir in the flour, ground almonds, baking powder, cocoa powder and milk. Stir well till incorporated.
  7. Spread this on top of the dough in the springform pan. Arrange the pear halves on top, pressing them in so that they touch the base.
  8. Bake in the middle shelf for about 30 minutes or till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  9. Take it out and let it cool in the pan for a few minutes before unmolding. let it cool completely before cutting.
  10. Drizzle with some powdered sugar. optional.
  11. Now take a spoon and dig in.

Slice of chocolate and pear

Notes :

  1. It is easy to overbake this cake, so be careful. It’s intensely dark color makes it difficult to gauge if it is baked through. So skewer method is important.
  2. Depending on your preference you can use 2 and 1/2 to 3 pears. I used 2 1/2, but you can squeeze in 3, i.e 6 halves.

 

 

Piastachio Chocolate chip cake and summer vacations

Today morning while watering the various plants dotting our balconies, I suddenly felt as if my grandfather was standing besides me. Instructing me to take note of the leaves and flowers. Judge the soil and decide the correct level of watering. I was transported back 20 years in time. To another summer when you could be in your shorts, sit in the mud and talk to plants all day long.

And then go up on the terrace, take a big slice of watermelon and hog it down. Staining your clothes pink and spitting the seeds all over. A time which seemed to go on, and day which seemed like one chunk of time. Not divided in morning, afternoon or evening. Because you could eat breakfast for lunch, take a shower in the afternoon and have an ice-cream whenever you wish. It was the summer vacation time. At my grandparents house with my cousins.

Every year, we would have such uninterrupted vacation for at least 15 days or even more. The hot blazing sun overhead did not matter, neither did the bruises on the knees. I was more acquainted with G.I.Joes and fighting techniques than Barbie dolls, because my cousin and his best friend were both guys. Who loved fighting. With each other, with the armored figurines or with me. He-man – The master of the Universe came into my life way earlier than dolls and dresses. I learnt to brat my way through, to get the maximum number of mangoes or to be the last one to take a shower.

I remember getting lots of candies then, which we would deposit with my grandpa in his big jar of candies. And every day we got to put our hand in the multi-colored candy jar and pick out the biggest candy. And then scare the world with our newly colored red green or blue tongues. The jar never ran out of candy, and our minds out of things to do. At the end of every exciting activity was a turn which led to another activity. So we would wake up and go out to pluck flowers for the daily pooja (a daily prayer ritual), then eat breakfast teemed up with a lot of fruits, make mud castles, go swimming, play with the dog, then a mandatory break for lunch, eat ice-cream(s), make origami animals, paint (sometimes books and sometimes walls), wait on the porch for my uncle and aunt to return from work and then go to the Appughar – local Disneyland, come back sweaty and itchy, take a shower, and then relax while listening to some historical stories and some fairy tales. And then dream. Dream of Shivaji Maharaj and dreams of being Rapunzel.

That was a time when there were no video games or Ipads. We played with Lego and doll houses and sand castles. We read from books which were made of paper and real pages which had to be turned to know what comes next. With our little hands and big thoughts, we were planting seeds of what would become of us. Those were the long uninterrupted days filled with possibilities. Of spotting a new bird or sucking the honey from a flower bud. Or just lying down and viewing the sun from our tin kaleidoscopes.

Rutvika


Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cake

This cake is as simple as childhood dreams. Nothing fancy, just some ground pistachios, ground almonds and chocolate chips which will melt in your mouth. I had seen this recipe in a magazine in Paris, inspired from a cake served in Rose Bakery, Pigalle. Try it, you will love the distinctive pistachio flavor.

close up of pistachio cake

What you will need:

  • 225 gm sugar
  • 200 gm butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 gm toasted pistachios, finely ground and sieved
  • 100 gm toasted almonds, finely ground and sieved
  • 200 gm all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • 200 gm chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

What to do:

  1. Butter and line a loaf pan or a 10 inch round cake pan. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together till creamy and light in color.
  3. Then add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating it before adding the next one.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract.
  5. In another bowl mix together pistachio powder, almond powder, flour and baking powder.
  6. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with the egg mixture till it all comes together. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes (for the bigger loaf) , or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Notes:

  1. The pistachio flavor is over-powering the almonds, but the almond powder keeps the cake wonderfully moist.
  2. Be careful to not let any pistachio shell get ground. It will be a nightmare to bite into a piece with the pointy shell in the cake. Hence i recommend sieving the pistachio powder.
  3. I used almonds with the skin to give it a slightly golden brown color. Feel free to use skin-less almonds if you prefer a greener color from the pistachios.
  4. You can use un-toasted nuts, but toasting releases the oils, and hence the flavors.

Pistach cake slice