French Tarte aux Pomme with pears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Now some finger-licking food time.

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

Pear and Apple tart

Tarte aux Pommes with pears

What you will need :

Sweet short pastry crust :

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

Pear Filling :

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

Assembly :

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

What to do :

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

Making the tart dough

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

Arranging the tart

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

Tart slice

Notes :

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

Rutvika Charegaonkar

Dimpled Cinnamon Plum Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Dimpled Plum Cinnamon Cake

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

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

Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

A slice of plum cake

What you will need :

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

What to do :

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

Juicy plum cake

Notes:

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

A platter of plum cake

Cheers!

Rutvika

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