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

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.

IMG_2152

Persimmon Eggless No-bake cheesecake

Pregnancy Blues

Last Sunday, husband and I were sitting in Kala Ghoda Cafe, having their most delicious rösti and hot chocolate, when a group of girls and boys occupied the adjacent table. They were perhaps 3-4 years younger than us, but in an entirely different zone of life. They were chatting, laughing, constantly getting up to take selfies and creating a hullabaloo in the tiny little cafe. While I was clumsily sitting with my 30 week pregnant belly and thinking out aloud ‘We will never be this wild and free again’. The husband heard it and was alarmed at why was I suddenly feeling this feeling of being trapped. I saw the worried look on his face and assured him how I am fine, and I so want the baby and how it is the correct thing to do and the next stage of life and so on.

Just a day back, at our pregnancy and lamaze class, Fit for Birth, the counsellor had advised us to be on a lookout for pregnancy and postpartum blues. Although I have never been capable of having the dramatized versions of “blues”, I knew I was in that zone.

Now my subconscious knows how badly I want this baby and the two-three months that it took us to get pregnant, I would cry like a baby when I got my periods. But still, now it feels like I have been pregnant forever. It is awesome, let me tell you, this whole thing of making a baby inside me, it makes me feel almost God-like. I am making kidneys, brain, lungs, heart, arms, legs, eyes; you name it, I am making it. So that part is amazing. But it is taking a toll on my senses.

There is a constant feeling of tiredness, fatigue, acidity, it feels as if my body is burning at times and uninterrupted sound sleep at night hasn’t been granted in a long long time. When I look in the mirror I can see a lumpy body, lack-lustre hair, mildly puffy eyes and pimpled cheeks. We haven’t been able to get out of the city in the last 3-4 months and it looks difficult for at least another 5-6 months.I long for that Pineapple daiquiri with strong white rum, and a puff of the clove cigarette Gudang Garam I love and indulge myself in once every two months or so.

Strangely, most of my dresses still fit me, with a stretch over the belly, but it makes me wonder what kind of clothes did I wear pre-pregnancy? (Mental note : I need to re-look at my dressing style once back in shape). And thankfully all my medical stats are on track, so I can manage to do most of my daily stuff uninterrupted, albeit with less energy. But the sheer willpower required to get out of bed every morning, make breakfast, get dressed, go to work, attend pregnancy exercise classes in the evening and stay awake till at least 9.30 pm is exhausting. I long to be me, the one with a zillion times more enthusiasm than now.

When my best friend was pregnant and in her last trimester a couple of months back, I remember her telling me how she too was bored. At that time, I thought, ‘Oh, how could you be bored of this miracle?’. But I hear ye now, and I know exactly how it feels.

On the other hand, or may be on the same lines, I am desperate to see my baby now. I want to hold him/ her in my arms, look at that little face and see how it’s little hands hold on to my finger. But yeah, no sooner than full term. I was born about 6 weeks premature, and my momma had a rough six months nursing me to health. So I better wait and carry the baby in my womb to meetings and movies, and not eject it prematurely.

Perhaps once my mom-in-law is back from the US in 15 days, I would feel relief. Relief from the responsibility of running the house, freedom from worrying if the maid will show up, not being in charge of shopping for groceries and having someone experienced to talk to in the middle of the night if the baby is aggressively kicking.

Well, till then, its time to enjoy the different shades of blue.

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Meanwhile these gorgeous beauties are in the market. Hachiya Persimmons or Amar-phal, they are exotically delicious once fully ripe, but cut them a day earlier and you will be shocked at their astringence.

persimmons

This fruit can be beautifully pureed. Just unplug the green head, cut it into four pieces and puree it in a mixer. Thats it. With the skin.

Opening a persimmon

I made a no-bake low calorie cheesecake with these beauties and it looked gorgeous!

A slice of cheesecake

No-bake Persimmon cheesecake

What you will need :

  • 3 ripe Persimmons (2+1)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 250 gms paneer (cottage cheese)
  • 300 gms hung curd (about 650-700 gms curd)
  • 200 gms Digestive biscuits
  • 60 gms butter (Amul)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 5 tsp Gelatin (4 + 1)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water (1 + 1/2)

First layer of cheesecake

What to do :

  1. Hang 700 gms curd so that the water drains. Roughly it will reduce to half the volume.Take 300 gm of such hung curd.
  2. Break digestive biscuits into a crumbly powder . Soften the butter and mix it with the crumbs to form an even paste. Then cover the bottom of a 10 inch springform pan with it and press down really hard. Refrigerate for an hour till it sets.
  3. Combine the grated hung curd and grated paneer. Add powdered sugar. Add 1 tsp vanilla extract and mix well to remove all clumps. Set aside.
  4. Puree 2 ripe persimmons.
  5. Add 4 tsp gelatin in 1 cup water and keep aside. This process is called blooming.
  6. Prepare a double boiler. Essentially a large utensil to boil water and a smaller utensil which can be placed within. Heat the gelatin-water mix in this double broiler. Do not let it boil. Boiling destroys the thickening capacity of gelatin.
  7. Heat the persimmon puree in a separate bowl. Then add the heated gelatin with the persimmon pure, and take it off heat.
  8. Lightly mix the persimmon and gelatin mixture with the hung curd and paneer mixture, till fully incorporated.
  9. Take out the chilled biscuit pan and pour the cheesecake mix on it. Press evenly and again chill for sometime.To make the persimmon glaze :
    1. Make a puree with 1 persimmon. Put on gentle heat.
    2. Bloom 1 tsp gelatin in ½ cup water and heat over double broiler as earlier.
    3. Add to persimmon puree. Mix well.
    4. Pour over the chilled cheesecake.

    Chill the cheesecake again for an hour, un-mould and serve!

Side view of Persimmon cheesecake

Notes :

  • This is not a very sweet dessert. But the mild tartness of the fruit goes very well with the hung curd and paneer to produce a delicate light dessert.
  • You can add some cinnamon and honey to with the paneer and hung curd to give it a spicy autumn feeling.

Home-made Pizza and Baby un-blues

It is that period of the life again. When everyone around you is asking “When is the (……) thing happening?” Insert in the bracket –  getting married/ having kid/ having second kid/ blah blah and bhlah. And with a lot of my friends, cousins, their friends going down the path of having a baby, I am not spared.

From easy nonchalant remarks of my mom to the serious discussion which my granny had with me a few days back, everyone assures me how it is the “right” time. And then if I brush off their remarks, they put their feet down, gaze straight into my eyes and pointedly ask me – “Do you guys want kids or not?”. I meekly say a yes and prepare myself for the onslaught of the next set of reasonings which clearly establish that our generation thinks too much. Atleast about this issue if nothing else.

It is true that before I went to Paris to study a month long culinary course, I had thought that may be this is it. May be once I come back from Paris we will be ‘ready’ to have a baby. But something else happened. I suddenly realized that I have to do so many more things, before resigning assigning most part of my day to changing nappies and monitoring growth spurts to answering questions about why is the apple red and why do we have to go to school. Sure, I adore little ones (am blatantly biased more towards baby girls than boys) and love to play with them and fuss over them etc. But as long as it is somebody else’s responsibility at the end of the day. As long as I can hand over the baby to someone else once it starts crying, I love babies.

We are still from that generation where our parents had the first kid in the first year of marriage. Without much ado. In fact when I asked my mom-in-law how they had spent their first wedding anniversary, I was surprised to hear that it coincided with the naming ceremony of her newborn baby. Simple. That was how mostly lives went on.

But apparently not now. The responsibilities of the baby business sound much larger than the joys. The pressure of making a healthy baby, then there is pressure of giving it quality time, combined with the pressure of growing it up into a noble, smart, good, well-behaved, witty, sensitive, mannered, loving kid – looms over me like a cloud. How will I be able to do that when on most days I don’t qualify for any of those adjectives myself?! How would we spend lazy days eating instant noodles and lazing around reading on the couch when we have to feed the baby 10 times a day. How can we get sloshed out over a healthy dose of bhaang drink, hog on some home-made pizza and sleep like an ass for three hours in the afternoon when the kid will have to do a zillion other things in those three hours?! Or how can I do a marathon of baking and cooking and researching with my big cook books on weekends if there are play-dates and birthday parties to be attended with the kids?!

The purists again try to explain me that this will be the case even if you have a baby 5 years later. In fact you would be older then and all the running around the kid will be more exhausting. But who knows? I might get fitter and wiser by then. I just might. Or not.

Sincerely,

Rutvika Charegaonkar

P.S : All of this does not stop me from calculating my ovulation dates. Oh, silly confused me!


So after the bhaang induced session, we did make the Pizza. Chicken for the husband and vegetables for me. I have experimented with several Pizza doughs in the last couple of months, but some smelled yeasty, some were flat, and some were just blah. But this one is a beautiful elastic dough which bakes into a layered crust and browns to a lovely crispness at the bottom.

Homemade Pizza

I adapted (say copied) the recipe from Raks Kitchen, she is very popular with all the South Indian aunties around and I have tried a lot of her breakfast items, which work very well. The Pizza sauce is the one I have been using for ages, but essentially if I am not wrong, it originated from wikihow.

Home-made Pizza with chicken and vegetables

What you will need :

For the dough :

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sugar

For the sauce and toppings:

  • 5-6 tomatoes, pureed and strained to remove skin
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 3 tbsp chopped basil
  • oregano, pepper, salt and sugar to taste
  • Shredded mozzarella or Pizza cheese
  • Small chunks of chicken marinated with a marinade of choice and cooked 80% in a pan
  • Onions, tomatoes, bell pepper and any other vegetable you fancy, cut into vertical strips

What to do :

  1. To make the pizza crust, mix flour, salt and yeast in a bowl.
  2. Take milk and water and sugar in a saucepan and heat it to lukewarm stage while dissolving the sugar.
  3. Add this milk and water mixture to the flour and stir it in with a spoon.
  4. Take it on the kitchen counter and knead into a smooth dough for 5 mins.
  5. Keep in a well-oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let the dough rise to its double size for about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  6. To make the sauce, simmer the tomatoes till slightly cooked, add the garlic, basil, oregano, pepper, salt and sugar and cook till it all comes together.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 230°C for 10 minutes.
  8. Then once the dough has risen, knead it again for a minute and divide into 4 balls of equal size. Keep the other dough balls covered while working with one.
  9. Roll the dough ball into a flat disk, making the sides like a rim. Transfer to a baking pan.
  10. Spread a thick layer of sauce on the disk, leave out the rim and then cover with a generous layer of cheese. Place the chicken and vegetable on top and spread another layer of shredded cheese. (You can cut down on the cheese to make it more healthy, but of-course it comes with the downside of not being cheesy enough).
  11. Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12-14 minutes. The pizza should move freely on the pan, be browned at the bottom and cheese should be melted on top.
  12. Serve sizzling hot with coke. Wait, diet coke. Yes.

pizza with veggies

Notes :

  • I am not a big fan of the elastic Mozzarella hence I use processed cheddar. You can use a combination of whichever cheeses you like.
  • This dough is really easy to work with and it takes less than 10 mins to mix it, knead and then some time to rise. If planned even 2 hours in advance, it is fantastic quick meal.
  • The Pizza sauce is very versatile and can be used for sandwiches, lasagna or even as a dip.

Pizza sauce