Chocolate Mousse Tart and a Diwali gone by

Keeping with the tradition

Diwali has come and gone. It was a test of sorts for me. For the first time in 28 years, my beliefs about tradition and rituals were put to test. Not that I am overtly religious or particularly detached, but I guess it’s somewhere in between. I have been through phases of wanting to do all things festive or sometimes pretending normal life when everyone around was celebrating some sort of festival or the other. But till date, the onus of “celebration” was never on me.

But this time it was. With mom-in-law in the USA, and me at 28 weeks pregnant, I did not have much hope from myself for Diwali. I assumed it would be perfunctory Diwali, with all traditions and get-togethers put on hold till my mom-in-law comes back. But somewhere a week before Diwali, my brain kicked into action mode. The house was cleaned, lights and a lantern were put up, a few diyas were painted, Diwali faraal (snacks) were made, ALL the traditions were followed to the T, numerous get-togethers were done and a perfectly festive Diwali was had. Of course, with the husband and father-in-law participating with equal fervour.

I have always believed that the woman of the house lays down most rules in-house and the atmosphere largely depends on her mood and involvement. Till I got married, my mom was the one setting the tempo during all festivals and she never failed in her part. Weeks before Diwali, she would buy us new clothes, get the house cleaned, make snacks and be prepared for the festivities to begin. And each year, on the first day of abhyangasnaan, we would all wake up very early, mom would massage us with oil, we would take a shower with ubtan, wear new crisp clothes and get ready to light firecrackers while dad would do a small pooja and all of us would then feast on deep-fried, sugary snacks. And every one of the Diwali days, there would be meeting friends and relatives and our house would be filled with chatter and laughter throughout. Mom was the anchor and we moored around her.

In my late teenage years I feigned indifference. Showed how westernised and busy I had become. How I had no time for these little rituals and it was all only for parents and little kids. In short, how I was above it all. But come the actual days of Diwali and I would be oh-so-glad that mom had not taken me seriously and we were still celebrating with gusto.

Then once I got married, the beacon to set the mood was on my mom-in-law. She did everything that was required without ever being the strict mother-in-law and asking me to do this and that.  And three years passed before I realised it is so much work to get all things arranged to enable celebration. Hundreds of minute details had to be looked into which I had always taken for granted. This was our fourth Diwali after marriage and I had no clue about a lot of things. I had no idea how Laxmi-poojan was done, no idea which silverware was required on which day and where it was kept, heck I had no idea who all had to be traditionally given gifts for Diwali. I was nervous.

But we managed. Unknowingly my brain had taken it up as a challenge to organise everything as she would have. Out of 4 Diwali days, we had family functions, small or big, on ALL the four days. I got gifts for all of the husband’s cousins as bhau-beej, asked my mom-in-law and got everything ready for the laxmi-pooja, lit oil-lamps or diyas each evening and fed everyone with delicious home cooked food every time. Of course we had some goof-ups. I was unaware that we had run out of haldi-kumkum in the house and at the last-minute I had to make everyone wait and get it from the neighbours. And all of this when the baby in my womb was incessantly kicking, perhaps enjoying the hustle or getting overtly stimulated by increased movement of its home!

Next year in Diwali, the baby would be here. I may not be able to be this involved along with the demands of an infant. But this year I realised that I deeply cherish these values and traditions which make us, us. And hence, I know that I would make the effort to be the festive organised mom which my mom and mom-in-law have been. For ourselves and for the kid.

Cheers 🙂

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : Our approach and topics are different, but read this piece on haathitime for a different take on the topic.

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And a couple of weeks back, our pastry chef from Le Cordon Bleu, Olivier Mahut was here in India and we had an awesome alumni get-together and two chef demonstrations. I had invited a couple of baker friends and the entire audience had a great time with the very sweet chef. He demonstrated ‘Tarte A La Mousse Au Chocolat’ or Chocolate Mousse Tart, which I recreated at home and presenting here for you. The quick mousse recipe especially is a delight and comes together in precisely 5 minutes.

Cocoa dacquoise

Chocolate Mousse Tart

What you will need :

Dacquoise

  • 120 gm ground almonds
  • 55gm powdered sugar
  • 20 gm unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 150 gm egg whites
  • 125 gm caster sugar

Chocolate Crunch

Dark Chocolate Quick Mousse

  • 150 gm dark chocolate
  • 300 ml whipping cream

Banana and Apple Filling

  • 50 gm cut bananas/ 50 gm cut apples
  • 50 gm caster sugar
  • 50 gm butter

Dasiy Dacquoise

What to do :

  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Place two 20cm * 2cm high ring mould on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  2. To make the dacquoise, combine all the dry ingredients – ground almonds, powdered sugar and cocoa powder in a bowl.
  3. In another clean bowl, whisk the egg-whites to soft peaks with a whisk or an electric beater. Then gradually add the sugar while whisking the egg whites to stiff peaks.
  4. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, gently fold the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture. Be careful to not let the mixture deflate.
  5. Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a 20 mm tip and pipe a daisy flower shape into the ungreased ring mold. Lightly sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  6. Bake the dacquoise in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and refrigerate. Use a small knife to remove ring mold from the dacquoise. It will get released, then carefully separate the ring mold.
  7. To make the chocolate crunch, melt the butter and chocolate over a double boiler or in a microwave. Whisk in intervals so that there are no lumps. Then add the praline and mix it to a smooth mixture with a spatula.
  8. To make the chocolate mousse, melt the dark chocolate over double boiler or in a microwave. Meanwhile, whisk the cold whipping cream to soft peaks.
  9. Once the chocolate is melted, whisk in the cold whipping cream. Over a bowl of cold ice water, further whisk the chocolate and whipped cream mixture till it considerably cools down and turns to a light mousse. Refrigerate for 10 minutes before using.
  10. To make the filling, take the cut bananas or apples and the butter and sugar in a saucepan and let it simmer till the fruits soften and the mixture thickens. Let it cool completely before using.
  11. For the assembly, take the dacquoise on a plate or a cardboard platter. Spread the praline chocolate crunch over the dacquoise in the centre. Spread it with a layer of the fruit filling. take the chocolate mousse in pastry bag with 12 mm tip and pipe drops of mousse on the dacquoise along the edges.
  12. Serve chilled.

Mousse au chocolate

Notes :

  • I always use Amul butter in all baking which is slightly salted. If you are using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to the fruit filling.
  • For whipping cream, I used Amul dairy based whipping cream. But frankly, it does not hold up shape very well in the hot and humid climate of Mumbai as well as the non-dairy based Tropolite does.

Chocolate mousse

“A Bollywood Affair” and Home-made Kaju katli

Book Review : A Bollywood Affair

As a teenager, I was a die hard fan of Mills and Boon. I would rent out one every couple of days from the local library and immerse myself in those books and almost always imagine myself to be the heroine. And however independent I was in real life, I loved the damsel-in-distress part in those novels. Perhaps it was something about the description of the hero, that you wanted him to come and rescue you, even if you didn’t need it. Ah yes and the the racy cover photographs! I would stare at them every few pages later and it would lead me to imagine things on my own.

Then abruptly that era of romance novels stopped, or came to a screeching halt. As if I had gathered all the know-how to fall in love. And while becoming an accountant, or working as a banker, I assumed I had to read more serious books and poor little Mills and Boon genre went through the window, taking with it all warm and soft feelings which that kind of books give you.

And then a few days back I got an Advanced copy of an Indian romance novel set in Michigan, ‘A Bollywood Affair’. It tugged at my heart. The characters Mili and Samir and Virat, they are endearing and brash at the same time. It is essentially the story of Mili who is married off to Virat at the age of 4 in a small village in Rajasthan and then for the next 20 years, she doesn’t meet him or hear from him. Yet in her heart she believes that she is married and acts accordingly. And its the story of Samir, Virat’s younger brother, who is in Michigan, USA to secure a divorce for his brother, for a marriage which they don’t consider to be existing ever.

And then Mili and Samir fall in love, bollywood style!

ABOLLYWOODAFFAIR_Cover

Its a beautifully crafted book, the scenes are so vividly explained that I could almost smell the samosas being fried at Mili’s best friend’s wedding. Or for days later I could imagine a yellow cycle which Mili has, standing in our own driveway. The book grows on you. On one side I wanted to hastily finish reading the book so that I come to know of the whole story, but at the same time, I wanted it to linger, to last, for some time more so that I can be in their beautiful “fallin-in-love” world just a little longer. Well, I couldn’t put the book down ad stayed up all night and finished it.

The most empathetic part of the book for me was Mili. She is shown to be very traditional yet pragmatic, she yearns for her husband to come claim her and yet goes to US for higher education. She has a belief system in place and that helps her set things right in the lives of people she cares for. And quotes of her grandmother throughout the book would make me go and squeeze and hug my grandma.

The only part in the book that did not go down well with me was the number of times Mili fainted. Eat something, girl! But Samir was always around to catch her midway through the fall, and the fluttering sparks which flew between them still made it enjoyable.

The book is set for release on Tuesday, 28 October. How did I get an advance copy? Yes, my aunt-in-law has written the book and everytime I see the pre-release activity on Facebook, I get a star-struck moment. I can see what a huge deal it is to write a full book, get a publisher, go through numerous rounds of edits and then finally release it. One important thing for me in a book is to know that there are no unforgotten characters. Each one is led to a logical conclusion.And none of the characters are left hanging here. When I asked the author Sonali Dev, how long it took her to string this one together , her words were “This book took about a year. It was one of those books that just flew out of me”. 🙂

Like I grew up on Mills and Boon I was very curious to know what shaped her romantic view of the world. But Sonali Dev says ” I didn’t actually read a lot of romance novels growing up. One odd Mills and Boon in college and a few Danielle Steele’s. When I was a young mother in my early thirties, I got sick and my husband took the kids to the library. Since I was out of books and I had time to read, thanks to being sick, I asked my husband to pick up a book for me. He, of course, walked into the library and grabbed the first thing off the display shelf. It was Catherine Coulter’s Rosehaven. A ‘full-on’ Medieval Historical Romance. I read the back, gave him my angriest wife glare and said, ‘You’ve been married to me for 10 years and this is what you think I read?’ But then I made the mistake of starting to read it and I finished it in one night. Could not put it down. It was absolutely delicious, I was hooked. I inhaled all of Catherine Coulter’s books after that and then went on to discover Lisa Kleypas, Susan Elizabeth Phillips, Nalini Singh and on and on. ”

If that’s what pulled this fabulous author into romance writing, the next book I want to read is definitely Rosehaven.
A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev (See it here on Goodreads) releases on 28 October, and I already have a list of people I want to gift it to. If you love romance, this one is not to be missed. And if you don’t, this one will convert you.
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And while Diwali is in full swing here, I had decided to make one new Diwali faraal item which I have never made before. This time its home-made kaju-katli, something like a diamond shaped cashew maripan.
I have loved kaju katli forever but I never knew it can be so easy to make. It has just three ingredients. Cashews, sugar and water. Thats it. And it comes together in 20 minutes!
Home-made kaju katli
 Kaju katli
What you will need :
  • 1 cup good quality cashews
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water

Kaju katli collage

What to do :

  1. Pulse the cashews in a mixer to make a powder, but do not let it turn into a paste. Take a few cashews at a time and pulse them. If you think it is starting to release oil, add a teaspoon of powdered sugar while grinding.
  2. Take the sugar and water in a thick bottomed vessel and let it come to a boil to make the sugar syrup. let it reach the one string consistency. (See picture)
  3. Then add all the cashew powder to the sugar mixture and mix well. Keep stirring on a low flame till the mixture starts to thicken and leaves the sides of the pan.
  4. Continue to cook on low flame till it forms almost a dough. If you pinch a ball of the mixture and roll it between your fingers it should form a smooth ball without crumbling.Once that stage is reached, in about 7-8 minutes, take it off the heat.
  5. While it is still warm (let it cool slightly), knead the dough till it becomes smooth. Then on a Silpat or a greased butter paper, roll it out with a rolling pin to the desired thickness. Cut diagonally.
 Kaju katli stacked
 Notes :
  • I doubled the recipe and cooking time increased by 3-4 minutes. Keep a check on the consistency and keep it stirring at low flame.
  • If it appears too dry, knead with a little ghee.
  • It stays well at room temperature in an air-tight box for 4-5 days and refrigerated for even 7-8 days.

Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes and The Bake Sale

The Bake Sale

Last week, for the first time in my life, I baked cakes and cupcakes and sold them. Yes, it is still unbelievable that someone was ready to pay for the stuff I baked and that I had the guts to ask for a price for my time and effort.

Honestly, I had no idea where to begin. When a friend called to ask if I would like to participate in the upcoming Diwali exhibition, I was sceptical to say the least. But my mom volunteered to have her stall of her competitive exam classes and I took the plunge, with her. I had never done a commercial bake sale before, and within a week I had to decide what to bake, how much to bake, when and where to source the ingredients from, marketing of the exhibition, what sort of frosting would stay well, how to package, how to transport, the pricing, what to do with the leftovers and a dozen other little details. As usual spreadsheets and to-do lists came to my rescue.

Being 27 weeks pregnant, I had to be careful that I don’t overexert, and bending down and lifting heavy objects was out of the question anyway. So I took help. My brother did all the shopping for me, I asked my maid to come in a few hours earlier to help with the preparation, my husband helped with the transportation and of course my mom did a lot of work at the stall venue. Which reminds me, have I said thank-you enough to them? Probably not, and I should do it today. 🙂

I had a few cupcake recipes on the blog, and a few bookmarked in a random books. I estimated that it would be suitable to make 24 cupcakes of each type. The batter preparation time would be saved and I could still make 3-4 varieties before my energy and time runs out. So I shortlisted 15 cupcakes recipes, and converted all of them to make 24 cupcakes. Then came the upside down fruit cakes, which I simply doubled, to make two pans and about 16 pieces. With all the ingredients listed out, I concluded that I would require 6-7 kgs of flour, 4-5 kg butter, about 4 dozen eggs, a kilo of chocolate chips and slab, canned pineapples, canned cherries, mango pulp, fresh apples, fresh milk, 2-3 packs of whipping cream, 3-4 kg of sugar – granulated and castor and a few other things.

Then I was stuck with the packaging! Local shops and Arife, the go-to shop for baking supplies had nothing even remotely suitable and they couldn’t order it on a short notice. Luckily, I found this online company called IPFKart and they had the perfect size individual cupcake box, and to top it, they agreed to deliver it within a day. Now I was set. Cupcakes : done. Frosting : done. Packaging : done.

The only puzzle which now remained was the pricing. I took a poll in a foodie facebook group called Chef At Large, and a lot of them suggested that Rs 50-60 per cupcake would be a good idea. So on the first day I priced all the bakes at Rs. 40. I baked and sold 80 pieces, but when I calculated the costs once back home, I found I had made a loss. (!) Totally sold off, yet a loss. So the next 2 days, I sold it at Rs. 50 a piece and could cover the costs without compromising on the best quality ingredients and sturdy packaging.

The exhibition was in my home town, the place I have been living in since the last 28 years. Needless to say I had a lot of friends and family friends who were very eager to taste all that I have been making and posting on the blog and Facebook for a while. So half the goodies were gone within an hour of opening shop. Chocolate cupcakes were the first ones to disappear and so the next day I made 3 types of chocolate bakes and still, all were gone in two hours. We are all crazy about chocolate, no? Well, chocolate deserves it.

Bake Sale collage

I had a great time at the sale. I got to bake tonnes of cakes, frost them with dainty looking cream, and the feedback kept my feet off the ground for a whole two days 🙂 If you are inclined, and if you get the opportunity, I highly recommend going in for a bake sale or a retail sale of any kind, the whole experience is quite worth the effort.

Cheers!

Chocolate chunk cupcakes

Chocolate Chunk cupcakes

I had made these cupcakes a couple of times earlier, and each time, they turned out perfect. Little bits of melted chocolate to bite into surrounded by a soft cake. And chocolate whipping cream frosting with a few chocolate chips drizzled on top.

For those who are interested, you can find the cost and pricing of this cupcakes here, to give you an idea of how to do the pricing.

This recipe will make about 30-32 cupcakes, but it can be very easily halved. Adapted from Purple Foodie Chocolate Cupcakes.

What you will need :

  • 24o gm all-purpose flour
  • 72 gm cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 400 gm castor sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 320 ml warm milk
  • 300 gm melted butter
  • 230 gm dark chocolate, finely chopped
  • 400 gm about 2 cups heavy whipping cream (I use Tropolite)
  • 4 teaspoon icing sugar
  • 3 drops of brown food color
  • chocolate chips, for decoration.

What to do :

  1. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa powder and keep aside.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 170C and line two muffin pans with cupcake liners.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs till pale and creamy with a whisk or a hand-held beater. And vanilla extract.
  4. Then add the flour mixture and milk alternately to the egg mixture, in three-four parts, folding in with a spatula till barely incorporated. Always start and end with flour.
  5. Add the melted, but not hot butter and stir well.
  6. Add the chopped chocolate chunks and mix well.
  7. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan up to 2/3rd full and bake for 12-15 mins, till a skewer inserted in the cupcake comes out clean.
  8. Let them cool on a wire rack after baking.
  9. For the frosting, whip the cream till it forms soft peaks, and then add icing sugar, one teaspoon at a time with some brown food color (optional).
  10. Once the cakes are completely cooled, pipe a tower of frosting on the cupcakes, and drizzle it with some chocolate chips.
  11. Ta da! Delicious, melt in your mouth sinful chocolate cupcakes are ready.

Moist chocolate cupcake