Roundup of 2013 @ SnD

Like every year, we had a year end get-together at our office where all our staff highlights the main events of the year gone-by. Professional and personal. When I started listing out my life in the last year in terms of events, my blog and blog related activities were the glitterati. 10 months, 60 posts, a month in Le Cordon bleu and a lot of experiments later, I feel enriched. And all set for 2014.

Quickly, I will roll out five of the most viewed and five of my personal favorite posts and recipes of 2013 :

(Click on the photo and you will be directed to the link and recipe)

Five most popular / most viewed recipes in the year :

No bake Mango CheesecakeIMG_5862

Five of my favourite recipes (other than those above) :

Multi layered ChiroteOrange cake1IMG_3492-3

My adventures in the kitchen certainly got a boost from the French patisserie course at Le Cordon bleu. The chef demonstrated at least about a 100 things, and we made about 20 traditional French pastries. Here’s a sneak peek:

Made @ Le Cordon bleu by the Chefs

Made at Le Cordon Bleu by the Chefs

I have a folder full of recipe papers, a pinterest board full of to-do items and a mind full of flavor and technique combinations to try. And with knife bruises on my fingers, oven burns on my hands and back-ache from the huddling on the kitchen counter, I am all set to embrace 2014.

And some awesome websites/ Facebook pages which have inspired me all the year round have been :

Chef At Large : A Facebook group of food enthusiasts

FoodGawker : Drool-worthy pictures and recipe links

BBC Goodfood Magazine : A monthly treasure of tested recipes

Purplefoodie : Shaheen’s blog that I always go back to for fool-proof delicacies

So that’s it for now from me and Sizzle and Drizzle. Have a great year ahead, all of you.

And let me know what your favorite food finds of the year have been. And if you are generous enough, share some treasured recipes that you and your family have loved and cherished. I promise to treat them well, and give you full credit for it 🙂

Adios, love and hugs!

Rutvika

Paris and Hot Chocolate cake with buttercream frosting

I am back in Mumbai to the chaos, colors and my comfort zone. Overall the last 5 weeks in Paris have been quite enriching. There were days in the beginning when I did feel lost and missed home, but then the city seeped into my subconsciousness and I enjoyed the days. Paris is enigmatic and callous at the same time. The entire city is like a museum and each street is filled with art galleries and boutique shops. But also with thieves and drunkards. With gourmet food and fashion icons, but also with ragged clothes and foul smelling subways. Paris receives about 27 million visitors per year but still is the 5th topmost place in the world for pickpockets.

But as I said, my time in Paris was wonderful. I was on guard at all times , but I came back without :

  • Losing my passport, money and or anything valuable
  • Breaking any beautiful art piece or glassware in my host Danielle’s beautiful home
  • Gaining any weight after a month long buttery French Pastry course
  • Taking any medicine of any sort (not even a headache, even once).

And meanwhile, I had some amazing times when I:

  • Tasted almost 50 different types of French pastry from the chefs in school and also from Hermes, Laduree, Lenotre and some more.
  • Made awesome friends from atleast 10 different countries
  • Went first time to a kickass night club at the Champs Elysees (that was my first time in not only that club, but in ANY night club. Yeah.
  •  Tasted foie grass, grilled rabbit and Julia Child’s famous beef bourgnion in the school.

Eventually I realized that :

  • Mona Lisa at the Louvre is not that great. And plus you can only look at the painting from a 15 feet distance . The idea of her painting in my head sounds more gorgeous than the actual painting.
  • Eiffel tower on the other hand is so incredibly beautiful at night that I could stare at it for a long time, and look at it with longing for it to sparkle.
  • The French folks are somewhat arrogant, and no one will talk to you before you say Bonjour. No matter if you said Hello/ Hi, or you are in a hurry;  the world halts before you say Bonjour/ Bonsoir (that is good morning/ good evening)
  • All pigeons in the world are just the same. Look at this otherwise dainty Paris street :

pigeon in parisThe school, Le Cordon Bleu Paris was pretty cool, although I have some complaints about the format. That will come up in the next post.

chocolate cake

In school we once made a sponge cake with buttercream frosting and they showed us good techniques for doing the frosting. But surprisingly just three of us from the group of thirty had frosted a cake with buttercream before. And I had done it just the week before leaving, so it was easy for me during the practicals. We had to lift the cake in left hand and frost it with a spatula in the right hand, while rotating it around. We hoped that no one would have any accident while frosting, and thankfully no one did. But, while putting the tall cake in the fridge for cooling, one girl (a very dear friend of mine), bumped it to the upper rack and the cake got a slope on one side.Never-mind, such accidents happen, but it tasted delicious!

Piece of cake

Hot Chocolate cake with Chocolate buttercream frosting

What you will need:

  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup hot chocolate (I use 1 cup of hot water mixed with 5 tablespoon of hot chocolate powder)
  • 1 and Âľ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 and Âľ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 and ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole milk, preferably warm
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/4 c. Greek yogurt or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup salted butter , at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 2- 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoons vanilla extract

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 175C. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans; set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together cocoa powder and hot chocolate; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.ith an electric mixer (either hand or stand), beat eggs for 1 minute.
  4. Add milk, butter, and yogurt. Beat until well-combined.
  5. Stir in vanilla extract until incorporated.
  6. Add hot chocolate mixture, and stir to combine.
  7. Add flour mixture, and stir in until just combined.
  8. Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.
  9. Bake for 25-35 minutes, or until wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  10. Cool in pans for 10 minutes.
  11. Remove cakes from pans and cool on wire rack until room temperature.
  12. The cake is now ready to frost and assemble.
  13. For the frosting, take cocoa powder in a large bowl. Whisk through to remove any lumps.
  14. Cream together butter and cocoa powder until well-combined.
  15. Add sugar and milk to cocoa mixture by adding 1 cup of sugar followed by about a tablespoon of milk. After each addition has been combined, whisk for about a minute or beat for about 30 seconds with a hand mixer. Repeat until all sugar and milk have been added.
  16. Add vanilla extract and combine well.
  17. If frosting appears too dry, add more milk, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency. If it appears to wet and does not hold its form, add more confectioner’s sugar, a tablespoon at a time until it reaches the right consistency.
  18. Once the cake has completely cooled down, frost one of the cakes with buttercream with a spatula. Then put the second cake on top and cover it generously with the buttercream. Store at room temperature.
  19. Decorate with buttercream drops on top.

Frosting cakecake being cutTips :

  1. You can also bake the cake batter in one pan and then cut it horizontally to frost in the centre and assemble back.
  2. The buttercream can be stored in the fridge for upto a week. Just whisk it well before using.
  3. I used salted butter to make the frosting, but if you use unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the buttercream so that it does not taste too sweet.

Gâteau Basque (French butter cake) and Paris Flea Market

When I was a kid, my grandmother had a big bottle of beads, sequins, buttons and other glitter. She used  it for her embroidery work and knitting, and treasured it in a cupboard in a corner. When I went to her house, which was often, I used to look at it and think of owning that treasure some day. I don’t do any embroidery work, but I badly wanted that bottle. May be because it was so important to her, that I felt I had to take it and keep it safe.

About 2 years back, a couple of days after she passed away, I went to look for that bottle and take it over. But to my utter dismay, it was not there. Nobody thought it was important, and I think it just went to trash. I almost cried. My grandma had handled it  everyday. It had her feel, her smell, and now it was gone. My mom reasoned to me saying ‘what use did I have of those mismatched beads?’. May be that mismatched beautiful mosaic made me see life in technicolor. Or may be it was just the Cancerian in me which wanted to hold on to things, of the past. But I could not hold on to it and it was gone. Eventually forgotten.

And then when I went to a flea market in Paris, it came back to me. Those antiques were a part of someone’s life just like my grandma. I had a good time looking at them, but never ever will they mean as much to anyone as much they did to the original owner. May be someone sat at that desk and wrote the best lines they had ever written, or may be that necklace was gifted to a new bride by her husband, or someone’s mom made delicious food in that copper pot, everyday, for years. We might never know the story, but only imagine some.

Paris flea market

My wonderful friend and host in Paris, Danielle (I feel very odd to call a 71 year old lady by her name, but that’s the way it is in Europe), she has some amazing stuff collected over years. Her husband’s illustrations, old books which her kids used, a few books written by her and her husband, souvenirs collected from places she visited and much more. It’s like an art gallery right here in her house. I wonder what will happen to it all when she does not need it anymore. Her husband’s drawings will go to the museum. But I hope her kids and grand-kids would take the stuff they like, before it is too late.

On another note, Paris is getting colder but more beautiful as Christmas approaches. The city of lights is really getting lit up, from the streets, to malls to big and small Christmas trees in front of shops. And of course, the Eiffel tower. The sparkling tower looks like a zillion stars just twinkled at the same time on a clear winter sky. And its visible as soon as we leave our school. One day, it literally pulled me in its direction and without any map or guide I simply walked and walked till I reached Tour Eiffel. Almost an hour’s walk in the cold windy Paris. But it was like discovering the tower myself from the other side, with autumn leaves still hanging for the last breath.

Autumn eiffel tower

It’s hard to imagine that we have already completed three weeks and 15 traditional French recipes at school. Everyone in school has developed dislike for anything sweet now and nobody even tastes the pastries anymore. Duh! Not me. I love every bit of it. Especially if it has some alcohol in it like the Grand Marnier, Cointreau or even rum. Its delicious. I can never tire of it. Period.

Gateau basque

Today, I will be writing about this very traditional 17th Century cake called The Gâteau Basque (Butter cake with pastry cream) from the Basque region of Southern France. It’s rich, smooth and filled with delicious pastry cream and cherries. A recipe which was taught to us at the Le Cordon Bleu, it’s a classic and very French. The list of ingredients and step-by-step recipe is going to be a bit long, but don’t worry it is quite easy to make.

Butter cake

Gâteau Basque (Butter cake with pastry cream)

Time taken to make : about 2 hours and Serves : about 8 people

What you will need:

Cake Batter:

  • 250 gm unsalted butter, cold and diced into small pieces
  • 200 gm powdered sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 260 all-purpose flour
  • 5 gm baking powder
  • vanilla

Pastry Cream

  • 300 ml milk
  • vanilla
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 60 gm powdered sugar
  • 20 gm flour
  • 20 gm custard powder / cornstarch
  • 20 ml Cointreau (optional, but highly recommended)
  • 150 gm cherries
  • 1 egg yolk, lightly beaten, to glaze

What to do :

  1. In a clean dry bowl, take sifted flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and a pinch of vanilla.
  2. Add cold butter cut into cubes. Then with your fingers break the cubes of butter and mix it with the flour mixture.
  3. Once roughly incorporates, take it on a work surface or countertop.
  4. Make a well in the center and add egg yolks. Mix it with a pastry scraper and knead the dough with hands, till there are no more lumps of butter. Be careful to not overwork the dough.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle some flour on it.
  6. Take the dough and roughly divide it into two parts – 2/3rd and 1/3rd. Flatten it into a disk and let it rest in the fridge.
  7. For the pastry cream, take milk in a big saucepan, add some vanilla and then add half of the sugar and put it to boil.
  8. Meanwhile in another bowl, add the egg yolks and the rest of the sugar, Whisk well till it becomes frothy and pale in color.
  9. Add flour and custard powder to the egg yolk and sugar mixture and mix well.
  10. Once the milk comes to a boil, take it off the heat and add 1/3rd of it to the egg yolk mixture. Once totally combined, add this mixture to the rest of the milk and again heat it for 1-2 minutes, till the mixture begins to thicken. Remove it in a separate bowl, give it a good whisk and put it in the fridge for cooling. Add the Cointreau/ rum.
  11. Take a 20 cm ring mold or a springform pan, and generously butter it with softened butter.
  12. Take out the dough and on a well floured surface roll the larger dough disk into a circle about 2-3 cms bigger than the mold.
  13. With the mold firmly placed on a parchment paper on a baking tray, lift up the dough circle and place it on the mold. Press along the sides so that the dough sticks to the buttered mold. Let the excess dough flip over on the sides.
  14. Take out the pastry cream once cooled and with a piping bag and tip # 10 / 12, pipe the pastry cream on the dough disk in circles.
  15. Put some cherries in the pastry cream and gently push them down. Be careful to not push all the way through or it might pierce the dough at the bottom.
  16. Take the other 1/3rd dough disk and roll it into a thin circle. Place it on top of the dough in the mold with the pastry cream. Gently seal both the dough circles together on the rim of the mold and trim off the excess with a knife.
  17. Glaze the top with an egg wash of lightly whisked egg for getting a light caramel color on top.
  18. Bake this cake in a pre-heated oven at about 160°C for about 30-40 mins, till the dough looks cooked.
  19. Take it out and let it cool for a couple of minutes, but then un-mold it when it is still warm.

Gateau basque whole

This cake tastes better at room temperature once totally cooled. So plan in advance, and enjoy this French dessert.

Notes:

  1. The pastry cream is delicious on its own. Just mix with some citrusy fruits like oranges, or even strawberries and make a healthy dessert.
  2. Be careful while un-molding the cake, as it is a bit fragile with all the pastry cream inside.
  3. This cake can be stored int he refrigerator easily for upto 3 days.

Gatequ basque cherries