Those three months and Kiwi Cupcakes with frosting

Last year around this time, I got pregnant. Which means that we were busy doing the hoo-hoos and haa-haas, very enthusiastically. Since then there hasn’t been much hoo or haa, but that’s a different story. (Now I seriously wish that no kids are reading this and neither is my mom or mom-in-law.) But anyway, it is an understatement to say that life has turned upside down since last April.

A few days back I found a letter I had written to myself. Last year this time. I often write letters to myself. Kind of a diary entry, but it works as if I am looking at the issue from a third party point of view. There, in that letter, I was telling myself to take it easy. It had been three months since we were trying to get pregnant and each time I got my periods, I would be immensely depressed. It felt as if I was killing the babies each month. I know how incorrect that statement is. I know. I know. But somewhere it just felt very bad. I would frantically chart my menstrual cycle in various apps and find out the “fertile” days. And coerce my husband into having sex as a rule on those days. Not that he minded it, but I had turned into an obsessive compulsive sexter, for those days of the month. For the first 10 days of the month, I would read up on all websites advising ‘how to get pregnant’ , and then later on obsess over ‘are you pregnant’ type webpages. I would dread each day as my periods got closer and any sign on PMS would make me cry. It was a very taxing time, let me tell ya.

My mom would keep telling me that it takes time, be patient. My husband would say, our bodies are not machines, have faith, it will happen soon. But I felt very low. And it is such a situation that couldnt even be discussed with anyone outside your innermost circle. At that time. To top it, my best-friend, my closest cousin and my sister-in-law : all were pregnant! Not me. Just not me.

I laugh at the insanity of the situation now, it feels stupid to look back at that version of myself, but I still shudder when I remember how I thought the worst was going to happen to us. And I had reached that conclusion in just three little months.

Later, when we registered with the gynaecologist’s hospital for delivery, the nurse excitedly told me that in India, December January is the busiest period in the hospital as it is the best “season” to have a baby. Most couples plan it that way, to have a baby in winter. And I thought to myself – “How the hell do they do that?”. How do they know when they will get pregnant? That answer still eludes me.

But anyway. Now I am hoping that when planning for the second child, I wont be so paranoid. Or I just might be. Because I will soon reach the big 3-0 in a year and half. Sigh.

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And I still don’t bake that often, my little one keeps me on my toes all the time. But these gorgeous kiwis in the market and eventually in the fruit basket made me want to bake. Urgently. And what could be faster than cupcakes?

Kiwi cupcake closeup

Kiwi Cupcakes with Kiwi buttercream frosting

What you will need :

For the cupcakes –

  • 1/3 cup mashed kiwi – about 2 kiwis
  • 1 and 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup butter at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 whole egg
  • 2 egg whites

For kiwi buttercream –

  • 1 kiwi, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre heat oven to 180C and line a 12-muffin pan with cupcake paper liners.
  2. Remove the skin of the kiwis and mash it with a fork to make 1/3 cup mashed kiwi. Add milk and vanilla to the mashed kiwi and keep aside.
  3. Sift together flour and baking powder .
  4. In another bowl, cream butter and all the sugar till light.
  5. Add the egg and egg white to butter and incorporate well.
  6. Now alternately add flour mixture and kiwi mixture to the cream butter and eggs. Start and end with dry ingredients i.e flour.
  7. Pour the batter into prepared pan and bake for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre of a cupcake comes out clean and the tops are golden.
  8. Remove the cupcakes from the pan and let them cool completely before frosting.
  9. To make the buttercream, cream butter till its light. Add 3-4 tablespoon of mashed kiwi, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Ensure that the mixture is creamy and not watery).
  10. Add vanilla and icing sugar and mix well.
  11. Taste and add some more kiwi or icing sugar as per taste. But add kiwi cautiously or the mixture will get watery.
  12. Decorate the cupcakes with buttercream frosting and half a slice of kiwi.

Kiwi cupcake platter

Australian Lamingtons and Separation Anxiety

I am not sure how much three-month old babies understand, but like all moms, I think my baby is super smart. Yeah, let me tell you why I think so:

  1. After my first day of work, baby boy protested my absence by crying. Yes, crying in my hands and then stopping once in the arms of his grandmother. And he continued to look at me and cry in a complaining tone ‘How did you leave me and go? How am I supposed to know when you will come back?!” And so on. It continued for five minutes (which is very long when a baby is crying), and then I scooped him up, held him close and whispered in his ears till he calmed down. Luckily for me, he soon forgot all about it and started giving his toothless smiles.

  2. Next day : He knows that I am all dressed up and will go to office after feeding him. So while he is nursing, he tightly clutches my kurta with his little fingers, and starts wailing as soon as I position him for burping. My otherwise cooperative boy, is throwing tantrums now. I start feeding him again and he just wants to suckle, while not hungry. To stop me from going to work. I go, nevertheless, but with a delay.

  3. Everyday now, once I dress up and get ready to go to work and then when I start nursing him, he cries. He may have associated my deodorant smell to me going to office. It feels surreal, but that’s the only nursing time when he is crying. It does break my heart and I took a leave one day, but he will have to get used to it. So the next day, I braced myself and went to work.

He is a man of discipline, my little boy. Exactly at 9.30 at night, he gets cranky. Only till the time that we take him to his bedroom. Then I start the daily nightly ritual of some massage, changing his clothes etc and he enjoys it. But he has to be taken to the bedroom at 9.30 or else he cries as if I haven’t fed him in ages. He has a set routine and detects any change in it. And detests it. I won’t be surprised if he soon starts making baby to-do lists in little planners with a tiny pen. (How incredibly proud that would make me of him, don’t even ask.)

No, but seriously, baby boy Ar. has definitely noticed that I disappear for most part of the day. He may not know what to make of it, and so he gets cranky. Even when he is extremely fond of his ajji. And my mom thinks he has also lost some weight. But you know she is an advocate of “baby-needs-mom-a-lot-and-then-some-more” and so she may be over-reacting. But baby boy is crankier than before. I admit that.

Strangely, when I was growing up, I was convinced that I would be a stay at home mum for at least first 5 years when my kid(s) is small. I have no idea what that notion was based on, but as time flew by and I actually got married and had a kid, the need to work and have a life beyond home and the baby has become immense. I am sure Ar. will soon get used to it, we will find our new normal, but for now, we have some separation anxiety.

Sometimes when my mom and mom-in-law say that he is very fond of his mother, I think they are saying it to make me feel better. Or perhaps to encourage me to form a closer bond between me and the baby. But may be what they are saying is true. And he does recognise and prefer his mother over the others. It’s a double-edged sword though. How guilty it makes me feel to goto the market or even to go for an exercise walk after already being out of the house most day for work. But certain things need to be done. This is life.

But one thing is for sure. When I am at home, I am at the mercy of his smiles, gurgles and coos.

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For a long time I wanted to make these Australian finger cakes called Lamingtons. They are basically cubes of yellow cake dipped in chocolate frosting and coated with coconut. When I saw this recipe of HomeBakersGuild, I knew I had to make them. I am very fond of fresh coconut and hence used fresh coconut to coat my lamingtons. It made the cake very soft and juicy, if I may say so. And the pastel color looks super cute.

Lamingtons 2

Pastel Lamingtons

What you will need :

For the simple cake :

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour / maida
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cup caster sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs

For white chocolate icing and decoration:

  • 170 gm white chocolate, chopped
  • 3 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cup icing sugar
  • few drops of food color
  • 3 grated fresh coconut

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Line a 20 cm cake pan with parchment paper.
  2. Sift flour and baking powder and keep it ready.
  3. In another bowl, beat butter and sugar till light and fluffy with a hand blender.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time and incorporate.
  5. Add milk and vanilla extract and blend well.
  6. Now fold in the flour and baking powder mixture, one cup at a time.
  7. Pour in prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  8. Let it cool, then trim off the browned edges and cut the cake into squares.
  9. Make the chocolate icing by heating chopped chocolate, butter, milk in  saucepan till they melt.
  10. Take it off the heat and icing sugar.
  11. Add food color as desired.
  12. Roll the cake cubes in the chocolate, one at a time and then in desiccated coconut. Sprinkle with some strawberry jam for decoration.

Notes :

  • The browned part of the cake tastes extremely delicious, eat it up straight away.
  • The icing can get a bit sticky while rolling the cake. You can even hold it with a fork and pour the icing over it.
  • If you roll it in dry desiccated coconut , the cubes will be drier and easier to handle. But I prefer the crunch of fresh coconut.

Lamingtons

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta and the end of my maternity leave

This week is the last week of my maternity leave and I will soon resume work. It is difficult to believe that it’s been 3 months since I gave birth , since the first time my baby boy tightly held my little finger till his fingertips looked white. He still does that, but now he wants to firmly hold on to my index finger. And he looks directly into my eyes, follows me as I move from one side to the other while doing my chores and sometimes I just move to check his ability to follow me. He has also graduated from ‘newborn’ clothes to ‘3-6 months’ set of tee shirts and onesies. And my little boy now generously showers everyone with that toothless gummy smile.

I talk to him a lot. I tell him how momma needs to go to office now, but his ajji will take care of him. He coos as if he understands, but makes me promise him that I will cuddle and hug him as soon as I come home. I promise, he animatedly waves his hands and I pick him up. He is my son, we have a connection and he knows momma will be happier when she works.

As for me, it’s been four months since I am at home. Initially bed rest for a month and then these three months. Now that my baby has a set routine, it gives me time to think of things beyond him. I have to restart from the basic things. I have nothing to wear, pregnancy has made me an L from an M and I need to go shopping. My hair is in a frizzy mess, good foot wear is non existent and my sense of traffic has gone for a toss. I ride my two wheeler at the speed of 20, because after being home-borne for 4 months, even 20 kmph seems very fast. I gotta get back on track before I can resume work.

It’s strange the ways in which motherhood can change you. It has made me paranoid. I worry over his every sneeze, try to monitor his next milestone and insist on placing his blanket exactly at the same place every night.  Moreover I am constantly worried that something might happen to me when the baby is so fully dependent on me. Every fast approaching vehicle feels as if it will bump into me and give a bloody fracture. And so I need to start working. I need to start spending some amount of time away from baby worries otherwise it would make me go crazy.

My baby is exclusively breastfed and I plan to continue that for another 3 months. Office is close by so I can drop in for his feeding times and perhaps also express milk for alternate feedings. It’s a good thing, I will be on my toes. And anyway work expands to fill the time available. So I guess I will be able to do justice at my workplace too.

This baby boy and hence we as parents are lucky. He has one set of grandparents living with him (or we living with them) and another set of grandparents just 5 minutes away. And all four of them dote on him and are indulgent babysitters. It makes it so much easier for me to go out, knowing that he is in very good hands. In fact it becomes my responsibility to be very efficient at work and at home since I have a strong support system.

But right now when I look at him having a conversation with his beloved ceiling fan,  I wonder if I will constantly miss him while at work.

May be. But I need to slightly detach to attach better.

Xoxo,

Loving mama

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For the last few days, I have been baking and cooking a lot. Experimenting with new flavors and textures. And one such byproduct is this Balsamic Mushroom Pasta. I like my pasta little well cooked so that it melts in the mouth with the creamy balsamic glaze. Without much ado, presenting a simple pasta dish which can be whipped up in half an hour.

Mushroom pasta

Balsamic Mushroom Pasta

What you will need :

  • 2 cups mushroom, washed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoon butter + 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup penne, cooked al dente for 10 to 12 minutes or as per instructions on the packet
  • 1 cup water in which the pasta was boiled
  • 3-4 tablespoon balsamic vinegar / balsamic glaze
  • 2 cubes or 40 gms Cheedar cheese cubes, grated
  • dried oregano, basil or other herbs as per taste

Pasta in a pot

What to do :

  1. In a big pot, melt butter and olive oil. Add the mushrooms and let them cook on medium heat till soft.
  2. Then add the chopped or crushed garlic and stir.
  3. Ad the cream and salt and mix well on low heat.
  4. Then add the pasta to this. Mix well.
  5. Add water and milk to the pan and cover and cook for about 10 minutes on low heat so that the sauce gets creamier and coats the pasta well.
  6. Then add the balsamic glaze, stir well. Add the grated cheese, dried herbs and stir well.
  7. Serve when hot with some red chillies or paprika.

Pasta in a pot and bowls

Strawberry Cream cheese Tart

For three years from the age of 20, I had a rigorous internship or articleship as we called in our Chartered accountancy course, based in my hometown Mumbai. It gave me several opportunities of travel all over India for audit including 2 months in Delhi each year. All of us interns, roughly in the same age group, we used to love it. It meant being away from home at client sponsored fancy hotels and visiting local tourist spots on the weekends. And at that age, partly because of ignorance and partly because of the courage youth provides, I was fearless, unabashed.

Once in Delhi, about 5 years back, in the midst of a very hectic working schedule, we interns needed a break. And all we could do was go for a late night movie post work. Of course our seniors were not happy with the idea, but nevertheless we went for the movie. 11pm to 2 am, in the freezing cold of January. Nothing happened, we were safely back in the hotel and it was just a movie night out.

We were thrilled at how we ignored what the seniors said and went for the movie, came back unscathed. But in hindsight it seems we were so stupid.

I remembered that night after watching the documentary India’s Daughter. That girl was gang raped in Delhi at 8.30 pm in a moving bus. And we were so foolish back then that the three of us walked backed from the movie theatre at goddamn 2 am. Was luck on our side? Yes. That must be the reason we returned safely.

I thought that the documentary was well made and it deserved to be seen, however shameful it makes us feel. A lot has been said and written about it and I have nothing more to add. But it makes me introspect my daily life and those of my friends, sisters and nieces. In this day and age, we women are not safe and it is prudent to be wise and act accordingly.

When I saw all the angst and long discussions about the rape incidents in India, it made me more worried about the short term. In the long term as further awareness gets created, we can hope to reduce such incidences, but for now, what else do we do but be careful? In principle I agree with liberal ideas of I will do what I want, but in reality it is not practical.

Somewhere it makes me sad that my subconscious has accepted the dangers because it means I have less energy or zeal to fight the negative elements. But pragmatism sets in as you grow older and now I want my young sister-in-law staying away from home to be safe. Even if it means she has to curtail her activities. I want my cousin to be conservatively dressed and not attract unwanted attention. At the same time time it makes me genuinely sad that I don’t have the guts to tell them ” Do as you wish, don’t be afraid of nothing in the world”, because the world is not so simple. Life is not in black and white.

In Paris when I used to come back home late from school, I used to get scared while walking back from the metro station, because there used to be a couple of drunkards on the streets and metro station. I once asked my host Danielle, if it was safe, and she replied; “Well just dont be in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

That’s what it is. Wherever in the world, take care and dont be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And a little caution never hurts.

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And while the last of strawberries of the season are still in the market, I made this Strawberry Cream-cheese Tart from my blogger friend Saee’s Youtube stream MyJhola. It is a delightful dessert made effortlessly and the video on Youtube explains it very efficiently. I slightly tweaked the recipe to make it a tad bit sweeter and used chopped strawberries for that brilliant red color.

Strawberry tart

Strawberry Creamcheese Tart

What you will need :

  • 12-15 Digestive biscuits
  • 2 tablespoon melted butter
  • 225 gms or 8oz cream cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 tablespoon strawberry jam
  • 2 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 10-12 strawberries, cleaned and cut into slices

What to do :

  1. Crumble the digestive biscuits and mix it with the butter. Pulse in the mixer a couple of times till there are no crumbs.
  2. Lightly butter a 8 inch springfoam pan and spread this mixture on the pan and press gently with your fingers. Refrigerate for half hour till it sets.
  3. In a bowl, whisk the cream cheese and add the strawberry jam and icing sugar.
  4. In another bowl, whip the cream to form soft peaks.
  5. Now carefully fold it into the cream cheese mixture.
  6. Take out the biscuit base and fill it with this cheese and cream mixture.
  7. Spread with a layer of sliced strawberries.
  8. Let it set in the fridge for half hour. Serve cold with some mint leaves.

Strawberry cream tart

A bundle of joy – my baby boy

Hello! From a newly minted mom. In the last two months that I had disappeared from the blog, I went off and delivered a baby. A baby boy, my bundle of joy. After a dramatic water breaking in the morning followed by day long labor, he was here. A part of me for so long, now pulled out into this world.

IMG_0373

Since then, have I changed? Yes. Overnight? Almost. Irreversibly? I guess so.

I had no idea that a tiny little human being will bring a storm into my life and for the next 35 days, every minute I will be doing absolutely nothing but nurturing him (and it still continues). I had heard about it, read countless mommy blogs, but you only realise the intensity of it, when it actually happens to you.

Thankfully I had a normal delivery, and within a day I felt fine. Sure my body still felt as if I was hit by a truck but I was comfortable and mentally I had gone into this overdrive mode where nothing else but the baby mattered, as I am sure happens with most moms.

Earlier when I used to imagine that precise moment when the baby is born and handed over to me, I always saw myself crying. Because of the enormity of the situation. But when it actually happened, I realised that at that point of time, labor was more overpowering and when the baby eventually came out, I only felt relief. I heard a loud baby cry, the doctor said it is a healthy baby boy and then immediately they placed the baby on my chest. I was supremely terrified that this tiny little being would fall off. And I clutched him tight. My little baby boy. I knew him. Since the last 9 months. In my womb. And now here he was. Beautiful and perfect. When Akshay, (my husband and my baby’s father) came in, I felt a surge of pride. At the living being we had created together. Baby boy had an exact tiny replica of his fathers nose. It was incredible.

Later on, when the baby suckled at my breast for the first time, I finally let down a tear. We had made it till here and we will do it till the end of our lives. Akshay and I had a new team member and we were a new family now.

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And then the histrionics began. Since that day I have found a deep reservoir of patience within myself. This little baby, we named him Arjun, does not know anything about the world. He was and is so solely dependent on me that it was humbling and yet empowering. Nothing else in life yet had made me feel so powerful till date. I had given birth and now I was giving him life.

I know I am using a lot of superlatives , but these extreme words are barely able to give justice to the surge of emotions, so bear with me.

After being discharged from the hospital , we came to my mom’s house, as is the tradition. And since then, we are here for 6 weeks, where my mom helps me take care of the baby, and she takes care of me. I couldn’t have managed these initial days without her constant support and unending hands-on baby management.

This month has been emotionally exhausting, for the lack of better words. First the realisation of the huge responsibility and secondly because my baby refused to breast feed initially. He would cry inconsolably, hold his breath and then we had to feed him expressed/ pumped milk and sometimes formula milk. And that broke my heart. I had one job, that was to feed him, and I was unable to do it. Incapable. And I did not know why that was happening.
Every time he refused to breastfeed I would cry. And cry. My mom and mom-in-law , husband , friends and a dear aunt tried to convince me that it is fine and it will gradually get better. The demand supply situation of milk takes time to adjust. It helped but just for sometime. I felt miserable.

Then after four weeks of agonising over it, suddenly one fine day baby boy decided it was time to make momma feel good. And like a switch he moved on to hundred percent breastfeeding and now we are happy campers.

It still takes enormous patience, I have to be available and ready 24 hours and sit nursing him for an hour at a time, without moving from my chair. And that with just about 4-5 hours sleep each day since he was born. But I feel satisfied. The natural endorphins released by my body seem to be working and I feel a high each time he nurses well and coos satisfactorily. And smiles. Not necessarily at me, but he smiles nonetheless.

We are slowly getting adjusted to each other. Him and me. While he is discovering something new everyday, so am I. We will guide each other, me telling him about this big, beautiful world and he teaching me how to be a mom. :)

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And meanwhile, for my little baby’s first month birthday, I made a simple eggless chocolate pudding. In a microwave. It has just 4-5 ingredients and comes together in 15 minutes. A very quick fix to your chocolate cravings.

Eggless Microwave Chocolate Pudding

Chocolate pudding1

What you will need:

  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoon corn flour
  • 2 cups milk

What to do :

  1. In a microwave safe bowl, mix caster sugar, cocoa powder and corn flour. Mix well with a whisk to break any lumps.
  2. Add milk to the above dry ingredients and let it dissolve in the milk.
  3. Microwave the mixture for 3 minutes. Then take it out and stir well. Again microwave in bursts of 1 minute, stirring in intervals till the mixture thickens. It will take about 6-7 minutes in the microwave. Alternately, you can thicken the mixture on a stove-top, while constantly stirring.
  4. Pour the pudding in cups or ramekins, cover with a plastic wrap and let it cool for an hour in the refrigerator.
  5. Garnish with chocolate curls or whipped cream before serving.

Chocolate pudding

Black Forest Cake and Bed (Ar)rested!

Two months back at the bake sale, one of my friends was narrating her pregnancy experiences to me. She’d been told to take bed rest from her 8th month onwards. I listened politely, but stuff like this never happens to me. Right? Right?

And exactly 10 days later, my baby was in a hurry to come out too and I was put on total bed rest for 6 long weeks, at the least. There you go. I was thinking to myself “How did this happen to me? TO ME??”

My pregnancy was relatively easy till then and I had just bought some lovely maternity dresses and wanted to wear them and go out with my adoring husband, while lapping up all the attention. And there I was, stuck to the bed. Albeit I knew it was for a fixed time, and the alternate was a preterm baby and all complications, still, the first 3-4 days were the worst. It was as if a full speed car got stuck in the middle of a highway. Stopped. Midway.

But then, acceptance slowly seeped in. It became less difficult with each passing day. I got time to read. To pause when reading and to think. About the book or an article and about what it said. For the last several years I had been reading, but never pausing. Never taking it in. Gobbling it up, and filing it away in the reserves of the brain. Now was the time to ruminate.

To look out of the window on crisp winter mornings. To look and to stare. Think about the swaying leaves, and notice how that purple-rumped sunbird came for honey on the same flower, everyday at the same time. To listen to the various sounds omnipresent in the air. The vehicle horns, the chug-chug of a long distance train, a bus coming to a halt, children laughing, furniture being moved in the adjacent apartment, two birds chirping on the potted plant outside, a distant dog barking, first loudly and then fading away. May be it was chasing a car. Just like my mind was chasing a thought, first in a single solid story, connecting to something else, and then something next while the first stream of thought vanished.

It also gave me time to think about parenting. Analyze people around me and their parenting styles. Pick up different situations from people’s lives and imagine what I would have done in that scenario. Is it wise to read a lot of parenting books and go by the milestones prescribed? Or go by my gut, intuition and be a parent accordingly. One thing I decided for sure is that the first six months, the baby should be fully connected to me. I will have the exclusive right to feed the baby. Even after I resume work 3 months post delivery, I will hop back home as my office is close-by. I owe it to my baby to give it a healthy start. And come on, it’s a kickass feeling to be the sole provider for the baby. My best friend just accomplished this feat, so I know it is tough, but doable.

Sometimes it is essential to slow down. To take a break and let your mind wander. Let your body recuperate. Let the baby making take centre-stage while work and baking and blogging takes a back seat. I took this 6 week break for the first time since I ever remember. And may be bed rest is meant for those of us who won’t voluntarily slow down. Slow down. Pause. And get back to activity like never before. I am sure this was the calm before the storm. Before a screaming baby comes into this world and captures our attention. All of our attention.

I cant wait :)

Rutvika

P.S : From yesterday my bed rest has been relaxed and I can flutter around waiting for the baby to show up.

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And while baking has been suspended for the last few weeks, I had a black forest cake ready to be shared. I tweaked the original recipe and substituted it with a favourite dark chocolate cake and whipped cream and cherries on top. The whipped cream absorbs the depth of the dark chocolate and there is a medley of flavors in your mouth with some cherries. Its beautiful! And fancy, great for a celebration.

Black forest cake

Black forest Cake

What you will need :

  • 180 gm dark chocolate cut into pieces
  • 200 gm butter
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee powder
  • 125 ml water
  • 1 and 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup corn flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 eggs
  • 75 ml milk
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream, I use Tropolite
  • 4 tablespoon icing sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 can of maraschino cherries
  • Chocolate shaving for decoration

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 160C. Gease two 8 inch baking pans, and line the base with parchment paper.
  2. Mix lemon juice and milk and keep it aside.
  3. Mix instant coffee in water and let it dissolve.
  4. Melt butter and chopped chocolate in pan and remove from heat once it is melted. Keep aside to let it cool.
  5. Whisk the dry ingredients together, namely all purpose flour + Cocoa powder + baking soda + baking powder + corn flour.
  6. Then add granulated sugar and brown sugar and mix well.
  7. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and add milk and lemon mixture. Then add chocolate mixture and mix till thoroughly combined.
  8. Fold in the dry ingredients and pour the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 35-40 minutes till a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the pan and let it cool on a wire rack.
  10. Meanwhile, whip the cold cream till it forms soft peaks. Add the icing sugar and vanilla extract whip till it forms stiff peaks.
  11. Chop 3/4th of the maraschino cherries and reserve 1/4 cherries for decoration.
  12. For assembly of the cake, take one cake layer and spread it generously with the whipped cream on all sides. Spread it with a layer of chopped cherries. Then place the second cake layer on top. Cover it with the remaining whipped cream.
  13. Spread chocolate shavings on the cake and all sides and decorate with cream and whole cherries on top.
  14. Black forest cake is ready!

Note :

  1. You can use the cherry juice from the can as imbibing syrup to moisten the cake.
  2. This chocolate cake recipe can also be used with other buttercream icing.

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Songs that stay and a Cheddar Cheese bread

Yesterday someone sent me an audio clip with snippets of best Bollywood songs from the 1950s-60s. More than two decades before I was born. But those songs are very close to my heart, I have heard each one of them at least a hundred times, silently playing on the radio or the cassette player in the background, while our routine life went on in the foreground. They are so ingrained in my memory, that now when I listen to them I can see parts of my life in my mind as if a movie was playing.

Like those summer afternoons at my uncle and aunts place, where the radio would be constantly humming in the background. While we would all sit for lunch, my uncle would be whistling the tune, seated in his signature white banian or a vest and he would draw our attention to the different beats in the song with his myriad hand gestures. All of us kids wished at least on some days he would change the radio station to something “new and flashy”, but perhaps that old radio knew only those old songs. And now, because of some family issues, I haven’t spoken to my uncle in over two years. But yesterday those medley of songs burst open a locked chapter in my head and and I painfully longed to be in that place, just one more time. I wanted to pick up the phone and call him, there is nothing in the world that cant be set right by talking about it and my heart knew that this is no exception.

But my cautious brain did not let me make the call. Not now. Not when you are 33 weeks pregnant and can’t afford to be depressed. Not now when you are on bed-rest to avoid premature delivery, and you have all the time in the world to think and obsess over little memories tugging at your heart.

Not now. I let it pass.

But songs have that power on us. They become a representative of different eras in life. A particularly trashy song, which was very famous back in early 90s reminds me of the great times I had with my mom and dad, in our small apartment, where most of the time the three of us would be huddled in one room. Singing and dancing to that song, life felt good. Now when I look at the video, I cringe, That’s besides the point.

Or, the first song any guy sung for me was Roxette- She’s Got the Look. I had never heard that song before. But we were 18, and my boyfriend was participating in a college fest with his little band, and thats when he sung this song for me. I realised I was concentrating so hard on the lyrics, lest I miss something or some clue, and totally I ignored the wonderful melody. And I couldn’t show that I had never heard of the song, so I came home and played it on youtube a dozen times before going to college the next day. And yes, that song stuck in my head. Even now, if I am feeling low, I listen to that upbeat number, being 18 and have someone sing songs for you, was pretty darn good.

Needless to say, it was followed by Roxette’s very own – Must have been love… But it’s over now ; but thats for another story.

And then one the songs closest to my heart is “Hey there Delilah” by Plain White Ts. it was just 2-3 months after my wedding, and my husband was going on a long official tour. And he sung and recorded this one on my phone, I could listen to it whenever I wanted to, and boy, I heard that minute long clip, million times a day.

“Don’t you worry about the distance
I’m right there if you get lonely
Give this song another listen
Close your eyes
Listen to my voice, it’s my disguise
I’m by your side” :)

And as I have said before, I have a constant jukebox and a running list in my head of songs I want to sing to my little baby. I may not have a very melodious voice or a lot of times I cant keep a track of the pitch I started singing in, but that doesn’t stop me singing .

Because as Ella Fitzgerald used to say, “The only thing better than singing is more singing”

Cheers!

Rutvika

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And this post marks my 100th post on this blog. Its been a hundred recipes, a hundred stories and a huge part of my life. May be I should commemorate with a song :)

And with this, I have a special Cheesy bread with toasted sesame seeds. Let me tell you, this is one indulgent bread. About 30% in the baked bread is pure cheese, which gets sets into a beautiful marbled pattern in the bread. Eat it freshly with some salad and you are set for the day!

Cheddar Cheese Bread with toasted Sesame Seeds

Cheddar cheese bread

Adapted from The Bread Bible. Makes two 9*5 inch loaves

What you will need :

  • 1/3 cup sesame seeds
  • 2 cups warm water (not hot)
  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast.
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 6 to 6 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3 cups Cheddar cheese (I used processed Britannia cheese)

Bread making process

What to do :

  1. Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat. Shaking the pan often, cook until they are golden brown, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and reserve in another bowl to cool completely.
  2. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm water in a bowl. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water.Stir to dissolve and let it stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes, till foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, using a whisk, combine remaining 1 and 1/2 cup warm water + oil + salt + sesame seeds + eggs + 2 cups all purpose flour + yeast mixture. Whisk hard until it forms a smooth mixture.
  4. Then add half of the shredded cheese and the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until a shaggy dough is formed. Switch to a wooden spoon when necessary to mix the dough.
  5. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and silky, about 4-5 minutes, dusting with flour only 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent sticking.
  6. Place the dough in a greased deep container. Turn once to coat the top and cover with a plastic wrap. Let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  7. Gently deflate the dough. Turn the dough into a lightly floured work surface. Grease two 9*5 inch loaf tins or one loaf tin and one 9 inch cake tin.
  8. Pat the dough into a thick 12 inch rectangle. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, fold the dough around the cheese and knead gently a few times to distribute the cheese throughout the dough. This will produce marbled effect.
  9. Cover the dough with a tea towel or a plastic wrap to prevent drying and let rest for 5-10 minutes to relax the dough.
  10. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions and shape it into a loaf or a desired pattern in the cake tin. Place the loaf seam side down in the pans.
  11. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it rise for 45 minutes until doubled.
  12. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 190C. Using a sharp knife, make small incisions on the dough.
  13. Bake for 40-45 minutes till the loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when tapped with your finger.
  14. Transfer the loaves to a cooling rack and cool immediately before slicing.
  15. Enjoy your freshly made bread!

Fancy shaped cheddar cheese bread