Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a giant book borrowed from an aunt – The Taste of Home : Ultimate Cookie Collection, which has several hundred recipes and very useful directions to almost everything in the land of cookie making. How to store cookies, how to ship them, what if cookies spread too much while baking, what if they don’t, what to do if they are too tough/ too brown / too pale, etc etc. its a delight to read the book and experiment from there.

chocolate-chip-cookie-split

And my baby Arjun has a book where the cartoon Elmo is making cookies. So he wants to make cookies every weekend. It’s fun to bake with him (only if you ignore all the mess that he does). 😛

Crisp Chocolate Chip Cookies

What you will need :

  • 1 and half cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 150 gram butter at room temperature (approx 10 tablespoons)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 cup chocolate chips

What to do :

  1. In a bowl, stir in baking powder and baking soda in the flour and then sift it once. This ensures that the baking powder and soda get mixed evenly in the flour and it gets aerated once sieved.
  2. In another bowl, take butter at room temperature and whisk it with an electric beater. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar and beat till it becomes light, about 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add lightly beaten eggs and vanilla extract and beat for another 2-3 minutes. Let it all get incorporated well.
  4. Now add the flour mixture into the butter and egg mixture and whisk till it all comes together. Do not over-mix.
  5. Remove the whisk and then fold in the chocolate chips with a spatula.
  6. Take a baking sheet and line it with parchment paper.
  7. Now with a tablespoon, drop 12 heaps on the parchment paper, spaced well about 1 inch between two heaps.
  8. Put it int he fridge to chill for at-least 15 minutes.
  9. Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 170 C.
  10. After 15 minutes chill time, put the tray in the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, till the top gets slightly browned and the cookies get crisp on the outside. You can also rotate the pan once in between.
  11. Keep next batch ready for baking or if you have a bigger oven, you can bake two sheets at a time.

chocolate-chip-collage

 

Notes :

  • The cookies spread out once they go in the oven. So make small heaps and space them apart.
  • If you want very crisp cookies bake for a minute longer, if you want a chewy centre, bake for a minute or two less. Also individual ovens behave differently, keep a close watch while baking cookies.
  • You can also cut the cookies with a cookie cutter when they are fresh out of the oven. Like I did with a Christmas tree cutter in the picture above.

stack-of-choco-chip-cookies

Bon Apetit!

Rutvika

New-york style Cherry Cheesecake

New-york style Cherry Cheesecake

baked-cherry-cheesecake

There is a lovely nip in the air and what better time to sit and enjoy a piece of indulgent cheesecake with freshly brewed coffee?! Top it with some fresh fruit of the season – cherries, strawberries or even chopped kiwi. This combination of a tart fruit, creamy cheese cake and a crumbly, buttery crust is very fulfilling.

See notes below for more information about cheesecakes.

For the crust and the cheesecake 

What you will need :

  • 160 gram digestive biscuits
  • 40 grams melted butter (I use Amul)
  • 400 grams cream cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest/ lemon zest
  • 175 grams castor sugar
  • 55 grams dairy cream (I use Amul 20% fat)
  • 3 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

How to proceed :

  1. Powder the digestive biscuits in a mixture. Then add the melted butter and mix the crumble with your fingers to form a smooth dough like consistency.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 160C.
  3. Take a springform pan with detachable base and spread the crumb mixture on the pan at the bottom. Bake it for 10 minutes till firm.
  4. Take it out of the oven and let it completely cool.

baked-cheesecake-prep

  1. Meanwhile make the cheesecake filling. Beat the cream cheese well with a whisk or a hand-held blender and add the lemon juice and zest.
  2. Then add the castor sugar, cream, salt and vanilla essence. Beat well to combine all of it together.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time and mixing well before each addition. Pour this mixture into the cooled crust and bake in a pre-heated oven at 160C for 40-45 minutes.
  4. The best way to check if a cream cheese is done is if it is jiggly in the centre. If yes, bake it for another 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven once done and let it cool down before frosting.

baking-a-cheesecake

Cream Cheese Frosting :

  • 125 grams cream cheese
  • 50 grams Amul butter. at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon orange/lemon zest
  • 300 grams icing sugar

How to proceed:

  1. Whisk the cream cheese. Add butter and zest.
  2. Gradually add the icing sugar, one cup at a time.
  3. Whisk well.

frosting-a-cheesecake

Decorate :

  • Spread the frosting on top of the cheesecake once it cools and adorn it with drained glazed cherries.

cheesecake-piece

Notes :

  • You can skip this frosting and just line the top with cherries or some jam. I prefer a softer, mushier frosting hence I poured it over the cheesecake. If you want a firm frosting, refrigerate it for 2 hours before frosting on top of the cake.
  • Different brands of cream cheese are available in the market. Philadelphia and D’lecta are two brands I have most commonly seen. The Philadelphia cream cheese is costly (650 for 225 grams), but D’lecta cream cheese is also very good and costs Rs. 650-700 for 800 grams. In Mumbai it is available in Arife and a lot of stores having a cold storage facility.
  • Cheesecakes tend to crack at the top after baking. To prevent this they are baked in a water bath. But to keep things simple, I have avoided a water bath and topped the baked cheesecake with a cream cheese frosting and some cherries.
  • Cheesecakes are dense and continue to bake even when removed from the oven due to the latent heat. So to avoid over-baking it should be slightly moist at the centre when you stop baking.
  • After removing cake from the oven, loosen the sides with a spatula or a knife. It allows it to cool without breaking.

Chocolate Drip Cake

I have been eyeing these drip cakes in gorgeous colors for a while on pinterest and Instagram now. Katherine Sabbath sort of invented them in 2015 and they have been a rage. They look deliciously pretty and leave people wondering how the drips were made.
Very easy. Just some runny ganache and a cold cake.

I have made it here with a classic chocolate cake, a strawberry buttercream and chocolate ganache dripping. Once you know the basics, you can play around with cake flavors and white chocolate + gel color drip. And ofcourse any variation of buttercream or meringue frosting.

Chocolate Drip Cake

drip-cake-with-flowers

What you will need :

For the sponge cake:

  • 180 gram all purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 60 gram cocoa powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 275 gram castor sugar
  • 100 gram yoghurt
  • 40 ml warm water
  • 130 ml strong brewed hot coffee
  • 75 ml vegetable oil, I use groundnut oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the strawberry buttercream :

  • 100 gram butter, at room temperature (I use Amul)
  • 230 gram icing sugar
  • 7-8 strawberries – pureed in a mixer with a tablepoon of granulated sugar

For the chocolate drip :

  • 100 gram chopped dark chcolate
  • 200 gram Amul cream

What to do :

  1. Sift all the dry ingredients : flour + baking powder + baking soda + cocoa powder + salt and keep it aside.
  2. In another bowl whisk the eggs. Add sugar, yoghurt, warm water and mix.
  3. Add the sifted dry ingredients and brewed coffee to this mixture and fold in with a spatula till it gets completely incorporated.
  4. Pre-heat oven to 170C.
  5. Grease the sides and line the bottom of two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper.
  6. Pour the cake batter in the cake pans and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes.
  7. Remove from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes before removing.
  8. Let it cool completely on wire racks.
  9. For making strawberry buttercream, mix all ingredients with a whisk or a stand mixer.
  10. For the chocolate drip, keep the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream till it starts to bubble around the edges. Do not let it come to a boil.
  11. Pour the cream on the chocolate and cover it for 2 minutes.
  12. Whisk it till all the chocolate melts and it becomes smooth. Let it cool down.

frosting-and-drip-cake

drip-cake-all-sides

Assembly:

  1. Take a cake board or a wooden board and place one layer of the cake on it. Cover it with strawberry buttercream on the sides and top.
  2. Place another cake on top and cover all the sides and top with buttercream. Smoothen it with a spatula dipped in hot water.
  3. Put it in the refrigerator  for one hour and let it become cold.
  4. Make the chcoolate drip 20 minutes before using it on the cake. If you make it in advance and it becomes thicker when you use it, heat it in microwave for 10-2o seconds till it becomes runny again. But ensure that it is not hot when you pour it on the cake.
  5. Now remove the cooled cake from the fridge. With a spoon start pouring the ganache on the edges of the cake. It will start dripping down. Within one or two drips you will realise how much to pour at one go. Cover the entire edge of the cake with such drips.
  6. Now pour more ganche in the centre and spread it lightly with a spatula.
  7. Put it in the fridge for 5 minutes to set.
  8. You can decorate it with some sprinkles and fresh flowers.
  9. Store it in the fridge if you live in a hot and humid place like Mumbai.

Notes :

  1. You can add a teapoon of corn syrup to the ganache to get a smoother finish. But you can absolutely skip it like I did.
  2. The cake recipe is from a book called Chocolate by Cordon Bleu. The drip technique is taken from Stylesweetca.com.
  3. Yan use an eggless cake recipe from here and turn this into an eggless dessert.

chocolate-drip-cake-slice

 

Masala Chai Cake

At home all of us are such a big fan of masala chai that my 14 month old baby asks for tea after every meal. He gets his little toy cup and toy kettle and I have to pour 2-3 drops of tea into his milk. He sits and sips it slowly like his grandfather.

Chai cupcakes with basil flowers

And then I saw this cake in The Big Book of Treats by Pooja Dhingra. What a wonderful idea to incorporate masala chai flavours into cake. We have pots of lemongrass and basil in the window and use it regularly while brewing tea. So I added it to this cake and the frosting has basil seeds and flowers. Straight from the plant. It gives the cake a very refreshing taste. Something familiar and yet decadent.

Presenting The Masala Chai cake :

Chai cake

Ingredients

  • 150 gram maida
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 100 gram Amul butter – at room temperature
  • 200 gram castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 80 ml chai – freshly brewed without sugar and milk
  • Basil leaves and lemon grass while brewing tea

Chai cupcakes making

For the frosting :

  • 100 gram butter
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder
  • 225 gram icing sugar
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Few basil (tulsi) flowers for decoration

Chai cupcake with periwinkle

What to do :

  1. Whisk the maida and baking powder together and sift it.
  2. In another bowl whisk butter and add sugar and vanilla essence.
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating it well into the mixture.
  4. Add the brewed chai to the batter, mix well.
  5. Then fold in the flour mixture with a spatula.
  6. Preheat oven to 170 for 5 minutes.
  7. Line a muffin pan with paper cups. Fill it with the batter.
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes clean.
  9. To make the frosting, cream butter and then add all the ingredients together and whisk well till it forms a smooth icing. Fill it in a piping bag with nozzle of your choice.
  10. Once the cupcakes are cooled, pipe the frosting on the cupcakes. Decorate with basil flower stems.

Crumb of chai cupcake

Notes :

  1. The same batter can also be used to make cupcakes. It yields 12 cupcakes. And two small loaves.
  2. Basil flowers are totally edible and definitely use them if you can. The regular tulsi flowers can also be used.
  3. The crumb of this cake is very soft and melts in the mouth. the trick is to use room temperature butter and eggs.
  4. It can be stored for 5 days without frosting and upto a week further in the fridge.

Basil Chai cake

Edited to add on 17 May 16′ : In a hurry to bake the cake, I added hot tea to the eggs, and part of it caramelised to sticky toffee like structure. Not very pleasant. Note – Always add cooled tea.

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Madelines!

Oh these lovely, buttery shell shaped little cakes. Crisp on the outside and soft like sponge cake on the inside. And that adorable little bump. It makes it a pretty little unique cake.

It was our 4th or 5th class in Le Cordon Bleu and the chef demonstrated this French traditional cake from the Lorraine region in France. I was astonished. That shell shaped structure looked gorgeous. And then the bump on the other side revealing the soft part inside. The edges – browned and crisp are a delight to bite into.

Madelines with honey

Madeleines are the perfect accompaniment to the evening cup of tea or coffee. They taste best when served warm fresh out of the oven. The crispness of the crust starts to lessen as it gets stored, but biting into a fresh madeleine is a real pleasure.

The only special equipment you will need is a Scallop shell pan. I purchased mine in E.Dehillerin in Paris, but it is easily available at Amazon.in or your local bakeware shop.

The traditional version calls for browning butter and then using it. But there is a very fine line between brown butter and burnt butter. So to avoid that, we simply melt butter with orange zest and that gives it the citrusy flavour. If you wish to get the nuttiness of browned butter, brown it in a pan for a couple of minutes, let it cool down and then use it.

This recipe is based on the one we learnt at school and I have further added orange zest and honey to it.

Madelines in shell pan

Honey Orange-zest Madelines

Makes 10 Madelines

What you will need :

  • 100 gram all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 70 gram butter
  • 1 teaspoon orange zest
  • 65 grams castor sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

What to do :

  1. Sift flour and baking powder to avoid any lumps.
  2. Melt butter in a pan or in microwave with the orange zest.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and add sugar. Whisk till it becomes pale and creamy.
  4. Add the vanilla extract
  5. Fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture and then add butter and orange zest mixture. Fold it in with a spatula.
  6. Now transfer it to a disposable piping bag without any nozzle and refrigerate it for atleast 3 hours. You can even refrigerate it overnight.
  7. Before baking, pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Brush the shell pan with some melted  butter and drizzle some flour on it.
  8. Pipe molds of batter on the pan and let it bake for 10-11 minutes till it is browned not he edges and cooked in the centre. The centre should spring back when touched.

IMG_3640

 

Notes :

  1. It is essential to refrigerate the dough so that the flour hydrates and it forms that quintessential bump when baked.
  2. This can also be used as a basic recipe and honey and orange zest can be substituted with any other flavouring.

madelines with a bump

Cheers!

Rutvika

Rustic Beetroot Cake (Eggless)

I have been baking often over the last few days. Simple occasions demand simple cakes without too much frosting or decoration. Real flavours and things that can be whipped up within an hour.

My 14 month old baby boy has begun to enjoy the cake decoration part. With his tiny little fingers he helps me put chocolate chips on the cake, but most of the fruits and sprinkles end up in his stomach. And now he gets excited when he looks at the pans, or the whisk or the even the weighing scale. He knows something delicious is coming up. I let him have little pieces of cake. Since he was 12 months old, he eats everything that we eat. And I bet he is turning into a foodie.

Since we are a nation obsessed with eggless cakes, I have been trying my hand on a couple of them. Substituting ingredients in a cake which calls for an egg or two doesn’t work. The whole composition has to be changed. So here is one based on a chocolate eggless cake from The Big Book of Treats by Pooja Dhingra.

This cake uses 2 small beetroots and gives a very nice flavour to the cake. it does not use any added colour. The texture is also very soft and crumbly. Topped with whipped cream and coloured sugar crystals, it looks very rustic.

Beetroot cake

 

Rustic Eggless Beetroot Cake 

What you will need :

  • 2 small beetroots, steamed/ boiled and pureed
  • 130 gram all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 100 gram Amul butter at room temperature
  • 20 gram castor sugar
  • 30 ml warm milk
  • 150 grams condensed milk
  • 150 gram dark chocolate melted

What to do :

  1. Melt the chocolate in microwave or double boiler and let it cool.
  2. Sift together all the dry ingredients – flour+ baking powder + baking soda and keep aside.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 180C for 5 minutes.
  4. In a big bowl, whisk butter till soft and fluffy. Add the sugar and whisk.
  5. Now add the milk, condensed milk and melted chocolate and mix well.
  6. Then slowly add the pureed beetroot and incorporate well with a whisk.
  7. Now fold in the dry ingredients with a rubber spatula.
  8. Line one 6-8 inch pan with parchment paper and butter and flour the sides.
  9. Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake at 180 C for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted int he centre comes out clean.
  10. I cut the cake horizontally into half to frost and stack them up.
  11. Decorate with some whipped cream and coloured castor sugar on top.

Slice of beetroot cake

Notes :

  • I steamed the beetroots (just like steaming potatoes) in a pressure cooker, removed the skin and then pulsed it in a mixer for a couple of minutes.
  • You can easily serve the cake without any frosting, it is very soft and melt-in-the mouth.

Strawberry Meringue Tart

One of the best things I learnt in Le Cordon Bleu was Tarts and Pies. I absolutely love the concept of a fruit filling in crisp, flaky crusts and topped with cream or meringue. The rolled out pastry dough can be a bit tricky and needs some practice, but this pressed-in crusts are very easy to work with. Just mix the ingredients into a dough and press in into a tart pan.

This almond pastry is baked blind to a crisp biscuit like consistency and then filled with strawberries. You can replace it with any fruit you like say apples, mangoes, canned blueberry etc. If you don’t like the meringue topping , it’s beautiful though – soft and pillowy, you can top it with whipping cream and skip the last step of baking the meringue.

This recipe has been adapted from a book called Desserts which I had picked up at a flea market, many years back.

Strawberry Meringue Tart in an almond pastry

Strawberry meringue tart

What you will need :

For the almond pastry :

  • 2/3 cup butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup (about 100 grams) finely ground and sieved almonds
  • 1 and 3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Filling :

  • 2 cups strawberries, sliced or chopped (about 400 grams)
  • 1/2 cup castor sugar

Meringue topping :

  • 4 egg whites
  • 2/3 cup castor sugar

Process of meringue

What to do :

  1. Lightly butter and flour a 9-inch tart and a 5 inch tart pan with a removable bottom.
  2. To prepare the pastry, combine all the ingredients in a food processor or a mixer and process to form a stiff dough.
  3. Remove it on a plate and knead a couple of times till it all comes together.
  4. Firmly press it at the bottom and sides of the tart pan. Prick it all over with a fork and let it chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  5. Pr-heat oven to 170C and bake it for 20-25 minutes until form and golden. let it cool completely.
  6. To prepare the meringue, beat the egg whites till stiff peaks form. Gently beat in castor sugar.
  7. Combine strawberries and castor sugar.
  8. Now once the tart shell is completely cooled, pile spoonfuls of meringue on the edges of the tart. Fill the centre with the strawberry mixture. Now pile the remaining meringue on the top of the strawberries.
  9. Bake for 10-15 minutes in a preheated oven at 220C for 10-15 minutes, till the crust is firm and the top of meringue is browned.

Strawberry tart full

Notes :

  • If you are worried about the egg whites staying undercooked, you can bake it for another 5 minutes, till it get firmer.
  • I have used unbalanced almonds, directly powdered in the mixture. I prefer the nuttiness of un-blanched almonds.
  • I used a 9 inch shallow tart pan and a 5 inch smaller pan because I had leftover pastry. If you have a deeper pan, it will all fit into a 9 inch pan.

 

 

Ukadiche Modak – Hosting for Daring Cooks Challenge

Sweet steamed modaks

When the new year started in January, I had made a list of resolutions. Some of them like losing 10 kgs in a year etc. never work out, but one of them was hosting a Daring Kitchen Challenge. And I did! My favourite modaks for the month of September. The details and precision which go into preparing a challenge is tremendous. And then once I submitted the draft of the challenge, it went through a rigorous testing schedule by the volunteers at the Daring Kitchen. A few modifications later, it was up for the world.

Every year during Ganpati, we make these modaks at home. Essentially, it has two parts. One is the covering (ukad in Marathi) and the other is the filling (saran in Marathi). Different households have slight variations in making it, but basically the covering is made of rice flour and the filling is made of a mixture of fresh coconut and jaggery.

For the Daring Cooks challenge, I made three different varieties of modak. Two of them steamed, and one fried version. I am hoping cooks all around the world will try this little traditional western-Indian delicacy and like it.

Excerpt for the challenge :

“The legend of Ganesha , the elephant headed God goes this way – Goddess Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva, created a boy out of the sandalwood paste she used for her bath and breathed life in to him.  Then she asked him to guard her door while she went for a bath. Meanwhile, Lord Shiva who had gone out  hunting came back. Ganesha did not allow him to enter, as he did not know who Shiva was. Enraged, Shiva severed the head of the child. Parvati was very angry and disheartened by this. Lord Shiva promised to find a head for him and bring the boy back to life. His devotees tried to find the head of a dead man, but only found the head of a dead elephant. Shiva fixed it on the body of the boy and brought him back to life, and from that day was called Ganesha.

So this month I bring to you “modaks”, an offering made to Lord ganesha. A delicate preparation of coconut and jaggery (a sweetner made from sugarcane juice) filled in a tender rice flour covering and then steamed. It is an age old recipe followed by several generations in our family.”

Blog Checking Lines : “For the month of September , Rutvika the talented lady behind  sizzleanddrizzle.com challenged us to make modaks: a delicate preparation of coconut and jiggery filled in a tender rice flour covering that is later steamed to produce a delicacy that is usually served in the Ganesha festival in India”

Recipe 1 : Ukadiche Modak

Servings: Makes 12 modaks

Ingredients

For the filling

  • 200 gm fresh shredded coconut
  • 100 gm chopped jaggery
  • 3 tablespoon water
  • ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder

For the covering/ shell

  • 1 heaped cup of Basmati rice flour, sifted (310 grams)
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • ¾ cup water (180 m)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 35 grams unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Firstly, we make the filling of the modak. Take the fresh shredded coconut, jaggery and water in a thick bottomed vessel. Put it on medium heat and stir continuously till the jaggery begins to dissolve.
  2. Alternately, you can melt the jaggery in microwave for in bursts of 30 seconds and then add it to the fresh coconut, it will come together faster.
  3. Roast it for a couple of minutes, till the mixture becomes slightly dry.
  4. Add cardamom powder and mix it well.
  5. Take the mixture off heat and spread it on a plate and let it cool down completely while you make the covering.

Modak sweet stuffing

  1. To make the covering, sift the rice flour and 1 tablespoon all purpose flour with the smallest sieve twice so that it is very smooth. The all purpose flour is used to make the rice flour more sticky.
  2. In a thick bottomed vessel, take the water and add butter and salt to it. Let it come to a boil.
  3. Once water starts to boil, add the flour mixture all at once. Take it off heat and mix it together with a spoon.
  4. Then put the mixture back on heat and sprinkle 2 tablespoons water. Cover and let it steam for 1 minute over low heat.
  5. Take it off heat and let it stay in a corner covered for 10 minutes, It will get softened.
  6. Once it has considerably cooled down, pulse it in a food processor for a minute, take it out and knead with hands to bring it together to form a smooth dough.

Modak ukad covering

  1. Prepare the steamer. Fill a large vessel with water covering the bottom of the steamer. Place steamer on top and keep it ready. We place the modaks on a banana leaf for steaming, but you can use a plain tea towel instead.
  2. Make 12 equal balls of the dough.
  3. With a little water, flatten each ball into a thin disk with your hands or in a non-electric roti maker, about 4 inches in diameter. Then take it into the palm of your hand. Stuff it with some mixture leaving ½ inch on all sides. Start pinching the corners into petals with the use of your index finger and thumb and middle finger on each side. Make several such petals all around the edge of the disk.
  4. Then start getting all the petals together by pressing it closer with your fingers. Seal the top and keep it covered with a damp towel till a few are ready to be steamed.
  5. Immerse each modak in water before placing it in the steamer filled with boiling water. Steam for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Serve hot with a dollop of ghee (clarified butter).

Shaping a steamed modak

Ganpati Bappa Morya!

Rutvika

Note : I have tried to simplify the recipe as much as possible for the non-Maharashtrian and the non-Indian cooks. The shaping of the modaks can get quite complicated, my mom’s grandma used to make a tower of 7 modaks on top of each other, starting from one single modak.

Pistachio Cake with orange zest and spices


Pistachio cake

I love baking with fruits and nuts. It gives a very distinct colour and flavour to cakes and other baked goodies. For instance this Pistachio cake with orange zest. The nuttiness of pistachios with the aroma and the kick of the orange zest is mesmerising. A little bit of cardamom powder and a hint of cloves intensify the pistachio taste in the cake.

I baked this cake and sent it to my friend as a birthday gift, some 350 kms away by courier. And it stayed moist and delicious for 2 days and survived the travel well. Of course there was no frosting, it was a beautiful and delicious naked cake.

Pistachio Cake with Chantilly cream

Recipe taken from Epicurious

Makes one 8/9 inch cake

What you will need :

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom powder
  • 3/4 cup pistachios
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 110 grams butter at room temperature (I use Amul salted butter)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2-3 cloves softened in 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoon orange zest (from about 3 oranges)
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2 tablespoon powdered sugar
  • powdered pistachios for garnishing

What to do :

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon water and immerse 2-3 cloves in it. Keep it aside for 5-10 minutes till the cloves let out the aroma into the water.
  2. Pulse pistachios in a mixer and sieve it to remove any clumps. Pulse the clumps with a little bit of powdered sugar to avoid the pistachios from becoming oily.
  3. Mix flour, baking powder and cardamom powder in a bowl. Add pistachio powder to it and mix well.
  4. In another bowl – cream butter and sugar till light and pale. Add eggs one at a time and incorporate well.
  5. Discard the cloves and add the water to the egg mixture. Add vanilla and stir.
  6. Add the orange zest and whisk.
  7. Now alternately add the milk and dry ingredients to the egg mixture and fold in well, till there are no lumps of flour.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
  9. Line a 8/9 inch round baking pan with parchment paper at the bottom and butter the sides.
  10. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes till a skewer inseted in the centre comes out clean.
  11. Let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning it over on a wire rack.
  12. Meanwhile, beat the whipping cream till it forms soft peaks. Add powdered sugar and whisk till stiff peaks are formed.
  13. Once the cake is cooled completely, spread it with the whipped cream and drizzle with some powdered pistachios.
  14. Serve at room temperature.

Pistachio cake with cream

Notes :

  1. This cake without the frosting stays well at room temperature for 2-3 days.
  2. If you want a bigger cake, this recipe can be easily doubled and made into a stacked layer cake.
  3. You can omit the clove water and replace it with some rum.

Le Cordon Bleu procedure and Eclairs with mango pastry cream

I am a Chartered Accountant by profession and excel sheets come easily to me. Heck, I even make my grocery shopping list in excel. There is something about those cells and tidy rows and columns which makes my brain work.  Perhaps thats why I chose baking. The precision and the technicality in baking allured me. But when I decided to go to culinary school, everyone around me was surprised. Growing up, I was harbouring dreams of becoming a lawyer. Then a journalist. But somewhere along the line, I registered for the CA course and completed it in the shortest possible time. Everybody thought I am an academic kind of a girl. So why go to a baking school? And as my father once pragmatically said, ‘If you want to learn to cook, even your grandmother can teach you that. Why go all the way to Paris?!”

I now know why. Because baking tugged at my heart passionately. I wanted to learn it as a discipline. Wanted to learn it from the masters in an authentic way. Wanted to stay in Paris, learn to bake something in school and then go to a famous local boulangerie or patisserie and taste it. I had to broaden my horizon beyond accounting and taxes and also live through some stories which I could tell my children 20 years from now. I had to do it for myself.

So if there is anyone out there who is thinking of going to a culinary school, this post is for them. If anyone who is from an entirely different walk of life but still enjoys baking, cooking; these next few lines are meant for you. And if you, or your son or daughter has just completed high school and wishes to be a chef, read on.

I have done Basic Patisserie course from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris and so I will be telling you about that. I wish to go back for Intermediary and Superior, but maybe after my little baby boy is a couple years older.

Cordon bleu school

For ease, this post is divided into 3 parts :

  1. Application.
  2. Coursework and timings
  3. Paris -where to stay, travelling etc.
  1. Application

Le Cordon bleu has 40 schools in 20 countries, and students from about 70 countries study in LCB. The Paris campus is the oldest one, established in 1895 as a small Parisian cookery school. The Grand Diploma programs form the core curriculum and it is divided in Patisserie and Cuisine. Each of these two branches are further divided into three levels : Basic, Intermediate and Superior. A few of my friends had enrolled for the Grand Diploma,which takes roughly around 1.5 years to complete. Each level is of a 3 months duration. However, Basic and Intermediary levels are available as an Intensive course of 4-5 weeks as well.

It takes minimum 8 weeks for the application to get processed. An application has to be prepared with an application form, valid passport copy, resume, letter of motivation, uniform measurement form and a non-refundable application fee. Then based on your credentials i.e your statement of motivation and CV (resume) an admission jury reviews your application. And then they send a provisional admit, if everything is in order. But don’t worry, I was tremendously helped by the Indian Admissions office right from making the statement of motivation to payment of fees. And so will you be.

Basic qualification requirement is completion of high school and knowledge of French is not essential. However, students have to be well versed in English.

My course was for less than 3 months hence I went of a tourist visa, but for the 3 month courses and upwards, a student visa is required.

There are multiple short courses available too on various campuses. These range from 3 hour to 10 day courses.

2. Coursework

On the first day of school, there is an orientation lecture where you are introduced to the different chefs, the training module and the school itself. We had students from 17 different countries in our batch and I made some very good friends there.

In our intensive class, we had almost 6-9 hours of class daily, 6 days a week. The days were divided into two sessions – Demos and Practicals. Everyday there used to be a demonstration of a technique along with 4 -5 recipes and then in the practical session we made 1-2 things from those demonstrated under the guidance of the chef. Broadly, we learnt how to make Choux Pastry, Puff Pastry, Brioche, Petit Fours, Croissants, Tarts, Meringue and a few genoise and butter cakes. Tempering chocolate, working with sugar, different types of macarons etc was taught in the next levels.

All the demo sessions are conducted in both French and English. The chef speaks in French and a translator simultaneously converts it to English. A sheet of ingredients is provided and we have to write down the method (recipe) in our own words while it is being demonstrated. That sheet will then be used during practical. During demos, there is a huge mirror above the chef’s platform and TV screens display what the chef is doing.

During practicals, the chef is constantly around to help everyone with whatever they are stuck at, and believe me out of the 28-30 things that we made, none of it ever went wrong. For all of the 18 -20 students in our batch.

There is an exam at the end of the course – one written exam and one practical. It is relatively easy if you have been paying attention during the classes. A certificate is awarded at the end of each level and a diploma on completion of all the levels in both the courses.

  1. Staying in Paris

I stayed in Paris with a friend’s friend Danielle and had the most amazing time of my life. Paris is very well connected with the Metro system and although I lived about 40 minutes away from the school, it was very easy to go to school. However, the students association helps with finding a place to stay. I also have a list of flats / studio apartments available of rent given by the school, which are very close to the school. A brokerage is sometimes charged along with the rent.

Air BnB also provides a listing of hostels and apartments and booking can be done before landing in Paris.

Paris has some of the best cookware and bakeware shops apart from being an absolutely beautiful city with so many touristy things to do.

Cordon bleu goodies

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Sorry for such a long post, but I can go on and on. Shaheen of Purple Foodie inspired me to go and pursue my dream. If even one of you decides to go to culinary school based on this or subsequent posts, I will be super happy.

Adios,

Rutvika.

P.S : And as usual you can PM me with whatever questions you have, or leave a comment here and you shall get an answer.

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We were taught Pate A choux or Choux Pastry in the school and it is one of the most versatile doughs I have worked with. This dough puffs up when baked and creates a hollow in the centre which can be filled with anything. The preferred consistency is that of a pastry cream. Presenting here is Eclairs, the elongated fingers of choux pastry and filled with mango pastry cream.

Three mango eclairs

Eclairs with Mango Pastry Cream

What you will need:

Choux Pastry

  • 250 ml water
  • 100 gm salted butter
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 150 gm flour
  • 4 whole eggs

Pastry Cream

  • 500 ml milk (300 ml + 200 ml)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 125 gm caster sugar (25 gm + 100 gm)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mango puree
  • 30 gm flour
  • 30 gm cornflour / custard powder

Mango Glaze

  • 1/4 cup mango puree
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar

What to do:

Choux pastry making is a technique, but once you master it you can even make it while sleeping. For beginners, it is better to get all the ingredients measured beforehand.

  1. Preheat oven to 160C.
  2. In a vessel, heat water + sugar+ butter. Bring it to a true hard boil. Then take it off heat.
  3. Add all the flour at once to the vessel and mix it in with a spoon, till completely incorporated.
  4. Put it back on heat and continue the drying process. Once you lift the spoon, nothing should stick to it anymore. Thats when you know the choux dough is dry enough and should be taken off heat.
  5. Empty the choux dough into another bowl. (to stop further drying from the latent heat). It should fall in one go.
  6. Add 2 eggs, lightly whisked and incorporate it into the choux dough. Then add the remaining two eggs one at a time, while mixing properly.
  7. Take a pastry bag with F16 pastry tip or any other wide holed tip that you have. Fill it with the dough.
  8. Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Pipe uniform length sticks on the parchment paper, leaving one inch space between two eclairs.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes or so till the eclairs puff up beautifully.
  10. Now for the pastry cream, take 300 ml of milk in a vessel with a teaspoon of vanilla and simmer over medium heat. Add 25 gms of sugar.
  11. Take the egg yolks in a separate bowl and add rest of the 100 gm sugar. Whisk immediately, or the egg yolks burn (i.e curdle as the sugar absorbs the moisture).
  12. Add custard powder and flour. Whisk well.
  13. Mix remaining cold milk to the egg mixture. Add the mango puree.
  14. Now pour half of the hot milk to this egg+ sugar mixture. Whisk well. Then mix all of this back to the saucepan and immediately whisk it and stir constantly while on heat. Let it come to a rolling boil while whisking continuously and cook further for 30 seconds and take it off heat. You can see that the pastry cream has now thickened.
  15. Put in in a flat plate to cool completely and then refrigerate for half hour if required to cool it down.
  16. Assembly : Once the eclairs have cooled, poke 2-3 holes in the bottom of the eclairs with a pen. Take the pastry cream in a pastry bag fitted with a smaller tip nozzle and pipe cream into the eclairs in all three holes.
  17. Mix mango puree and confectioners sugar to make the glaze and pipe threads of it over the prepared eclairs for decoration.

Filled mango eclairs

Notes :

  1. The choux pastry dough has to be whisked well to prevent any lumps being formed.
  2. Eclairs should always be poked at the bottom or they will sink if poked on top.
  3. If you feel there are lumps in the pastry cream, you can strain it through a sieve.

Mango eclairs on a board