Hi-Hat Chocolate Cupcakes

Inside of a high hat cupcake

I have been eyeing these Hi-hat cupcakes on Pinterest for so long now, that I had to make them sooner than later. They are essentially choclate cupcakes with a frosting and dipped in melted chcolate, like your Mc Swirl in Mc Donalds.They looked daunting. What if the fluffy white meringue on top which gets dipped in the chocolate just melts away? What if the chocolate doesnt hold and starts dripping? What if the entire frosting collapses and settles in a puddle on the cupcake? It would be an epic bake-fail, but curiousity got the better of me and I made these. And beleive it or not, they are super easy! I watched a couple videos about making the frosting and then adapted a Martha Stewart recipe to make mine.

High Hat cupcake

Droolworthy chocolates

Hi-Hat Cupcakes!

What you will need :

For the cupcakes

  •  2 cups maida
  •  ¾ cup cocoa powder
  •  1 tablespoon baking powder
  •  ½ teaspoon baking soda
  •  a pinch of salt
  •  1 and ½ cup castor sugar
  •  2 eggs
  •  8 tablespoon melted butter (I use Amul)
  •  1 cup plain yoghurt
  •  ½ cup warm milk
  •  1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  •  1 and ½ cup chocolate chips

Ingredients for chocolate cupcakes

  1.  Mix the flour + baking powder + baking soda + cocoa powder + salt. Sift it so that it gets aerated and there are no chunks of baking powder or soda.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk butter till pale and add sugar. Mix well.
  3. Then add the eggs, one at a time and whisk into the butter.
  4. Mix in the yoghurt and vanilla.
  5. Now with a rubber spatula fold in the dry ingredients and the milk in two additions. Always start and end with the dry ingredients.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180C for 5 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, line a muffin pan with paper liners. Drop the batter into the pan and bake for 20 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes clean.
  8. Let it cool in the pan and then on a wire grill completely before frosting.

Chocolate chip cupcakes

For the meringue frosting

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1 and ¾ cup castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Making meringue

  1. In a large heatproof bowl, mix all the ingredients and whisk with a manual whisk or a hand held blender till it forms soft peaks.
  2. In another vessel, heat water till it simmers.
  3. Put this bowl with egg whites on the vessel over the stove/ gas. Whisk continuously till it forms stiff peaks and the temperature of the egg whites goes upto 70 degrees C on a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, keep it whisking on the simmering water for 10 minutes, it reaches about that temperature and then egg whites are safe to be consumed.
  4. Then remove from heat and keep whisking till it cools down considerably and frosting thickens.
  5. Do not stop whisking in the entire process or egg whites will curdle.
  6. Transfer frosting to a pastry bag fitted with a big round nozzle.

For the chocolate coating

  • 2 cups chopped chocolate
  • 2 tablespoon vegetable oil

How to proceed:

  1. Combine chopped chocolate and oil in a microwave safe bowl and heat it in bursts of 20 seconds, whisking in between, till all chocolate is melted. Alternately, you can heat it over double boiler.
  2. Let it cool to room temperature.
  3. If the chocolate hardens by the time you are ready to dip, heat it in microwave for 30 seconds and it will be liquid.

Chocolate dripping

ASSEMBLY

  1. Now the cupcakes are ready to be frosted and dipped.
  2. Frost a high pile of the meringue frosting on each of the cupcakes. Refrigerate for a couple of minutes before dipping in chocolate.
  3. Keep the melted chocolate in a high wide glass. I used a measuring cup for it.
  4. Now grab each cupcake by its bottom and carefully dip it into the melted chocolate and remove it. Don’t worry, it will stay put. The meringue will not melt, you have my word.
  5. Put it in the fridge and let it sit for half hour before cutting.
  6. You high-hat cupcakes are ready!
Hi hat cupcake with chocolate frosting

Eggless Cupcake with eggless buttercream frosting

Notes :

  • Some recipes call for cream of tartar in the meringue, but I havent used it. It stays well and holds shape even without the cream of tartar.
  • Ensure that the instructions int he recipe are followed well, let the cupcakes cool down before frosting. lt the meringue sit in the fridge for a few minutes before dripping in the chocolate and let the chocolate be at room temperature but still  liquid.
  • In the Mumbai humidity, the chocolate ont he frosting starts to sweat as soon as you take it out of the refrigerator. There is hardly anything that can be done about it though.
  • If you want an eggless chocolate cupcake recipe, see here.
  • If you want an eggless chocolate buttercream frosting see here. Meringue frosting looks prettier because of the black and white combination, but you can use any other stable buttercream too.

Cupcakes with chocolate frosting

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

*******

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

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

The Baby kicked!

Yesterday my baby (or foetus, if you prefer to call it that way) kicked  a feel-able kick for the first time. A real knock-off one which the father could sense too. And once again I realised what they show in movies is total crap! The baby does not know what “All is Well, All is Well” is and kicking the first time can not really be defined.

I had been feeling the flutters since the last two weeks, as if I am slowly releasing an air-filled bottle deep under water and the bubbles are gushing out. Thats how the initial baby movements felt. And then I would frantically place my husband’s hand on my tummy so that he could feel it and I would momentarily stop breathing. Lest my breathing rhythm would camouflage the baby’s kick. But naah, I could just feel it inside, and nothing through the layers of the womb and skin. So the Eureka moment of “He kicked/ She kicked – for the first time” was spread out over a two weeks!

Similar thing had happened when we found out I was pregnant. Being led on by the movies, I was expecting a lightning moment where I realise I had conceived, and would tell the husband, he would lift me in his arms, we would sing a song or two and already start dreaming about baby’s names. But noh! It was a long, excruciating process where you confirm that you are really pregnant.

I had a stack of home pregnancy tests, anticipating I would miss my periods and intended to take the test the very day I missed them. Curiosity was killing me, but still we decided to wait for a day. I couldn’t sleep all night, as if it were result day the next morning. And at 4 am, I finally woke up and took the test, unable to resist it any longer. In the sleepy groggy state I waited for a second for the strip to change color. It did not. I was disappointed and came back to sleep. The husband had woken up by now, consoled me saying that we will check it again a few days later and then he went to use the bathroom. I slept.

When we woke up at 7 am, husband said to me that the strip lying on the counter had changed color. I went and checked, and it had! Very slightly, but there was a change. Duh. We had to take the test again, and till then nothing could be confirmed. And then the next day there was another home pregnancy test, and then later on the blood test at the gynaecologist, and then finally it was confirmed that I am pregnant.

All the song singing and whirling and twirling stayed in my head.

Someone may say I am watching too many shitty movies and soaps, but they are a source of education. The first time I saw the home pregnancy test was in FRIENDS and Rachel has to be thanked for it. So there you go.

Another dilemma I am now facing is when I see mothers talking to their babies in the womb. I find it REALLY awkward to look down at the tummy and talk. Sure, I have conversations with the baby, but in my head. I can’t, for the love of life, unmute myself and quote Einstein to that little tadpole like thing deep inside layers of amniotic fluid. The father talks to the little one, but it is as if he is talking to me and I am responding to what he is saying. But me saying something to my stomach in an empty room? Well, thats not happening.

I just hope that doesn’t make me any less of a mother, but I have to preserve my sanity. I am sure the baby will eventually know my voice, albeit without a woman who talks to her body parts.

Lovingly,

Rutvika

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My other love has been Beth Hensperger’s book The Bread Bible. I have made several breads from the book before like this one or this one or even this beautiful one. All three use entirely different methods and with some adjustment of flour, the bread dough shapes up beautifully. There is really nothing like home-baked fresh bread.

And when it comes filled with cheesy onion and sesame seed filling and shaped like this one here, it’s a total winner.

Braided bread

It may look intimidating in the first glance, but it is super easy to shape the bread like this –

Braiding the bread

Cheesy Onion and Sesame Seed Braided Bread

What you will need :

For the dough

  • 3/4 tablespoon instant yeast
  • 3 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 110 grams salted butter (at room temperature)
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup hot milk
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1 large egg

For the filling –

  • 4 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 to 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 tablespoon grated parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • 5 tablespoon sesame seeds + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling
  • rich egg glaze of one egg yolk + little milk

What to do :

  1. In a large bowl using an electric beater with paddle attachment, combine yeast + sugar + salt + 1 and 1/2 cup flour.
  2. Add milk and water and beat until creamy for about 1 minute.
  3. Add the egg + softened butter with another 1/2 cup of flour and beat until butter is incorporated.
  4. Add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until a soft dough which releases the sides of the bowl is formed.
  5. Then turn the dough into a lightly floured surface and knead till a soft yet springy dough is formed, dusting with flour 1 tablespoon at a time. Knead for 6-8 minutes by hand.
  6. Place dough in a greased deep container and turn once to coat. Cover with a plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 and 1/2 hours.
  7. Meanwhile prepare filling. In a medium skillet, melt butter + oil. Add onions and cook till translucent and limp but not browned, or the filling will turn bitter. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and sesame seeds. Set aside to cool at room temperature.
  8. Then gently deflate the dough, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Grease or parchment line a baking sheet.
  9. Cut the dough in half. Roll one half into 18×12 inch rectangle. Cut lengthwise into three 4 inch wide strips (4×18 inch.
  10. Carefully spread filling in the centre of each strip, leaving one inch margin on all sides. Fold over the edges and pinch them together, encasing the filling. Lift the ropes and place them on the greased baking sheet one inch apart.
  11. Beginning in the middle braid each rope loosely to each end. Pinch the ends and tuck them under securely. Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and let it double, for 30 minutes.
  12. Twenty minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 170C. Gently brush the braid with egg glaze and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  13. Bake for 30-35 minutes till browned on top and sound hollow when tapped. Repeat with the other half of dough.
  14. Let it cool on a wire rack.

Cutting the bread braid

Notes :

  • If using unsalted butter in dough preparation, use 2 teaspoon salt.
  • Depending on the type of flour and humidity conditions, little more or less flour is required to make a soft and springy dough. The book calls for 4 and 1/2 cups, but I had to use 5 cups of flour.
  • If using active dry yeast, use 1 whole tablespoon of yeast.

 

Bon Apetit!

Inside the braid

Cheesy Baked Bean Tortilla Chips

A perfect starter for a party, which can be made before hand and heated up before serving.

Tortilla chips have become a big favorite these days with all of us. And baked beans and cheese makes a delicious combo with the chips. Simply toss them together, bake them and a fancy starter is all ready to roll!

Ingredients :

1 pack or 200 gms of tortilla chips

1 can of baked beans in tomato sauce

3 Medium sized onions – shredded

250 gm baby corn

3 medium size tomatoes

250 gm unflavored cheese

Salt, Butter, Pepper

oregano/thyme/basil powder – whatever is available

Heat 1 and 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a pan, and saute the onion till translucent.

Cut the baby corn horizontally into thin circular slices and blanch them till tender or simply microwave it for 2 minutes with water. Then mix the babycorn and baked beans in tomato sauce with the onions , tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add salt, pepper and oregano/thyme/basil seasoning whatever available.

Once this filling is ready, lightly grease a glass bakeware with butter.

Spread a layer of of the tortilla chips, and layer it with the beans filling.  And then grated cheese on top.

IMG_5745

Repeat the same one more time to get a two layered mix.

Bake at 170 degree C for about 20 mins till the cheese melts.

Garnish with coriander and serve warm!

R

Vegetable Enchiladas

Vegetable Enchiladas

After coming back from work and yoga on a Wednesday evening, we wanted something zesty and yet again something quick, to fill up our starving stomachs.

Enchiladas seemed perfect, cheesy and melty, with our storage already stocked with some Corn Tortillas. (They are still not available in all stores in Mumbai, but most malls stock it in FoodBazaar, Hypercity etc. )

This time, the trick was to make it look colorful, with the variety of fresh veggies available in the market.

Ingredients :

  • 2 large onions chopped
  • 1 carrot sliced vertically
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 8-10 baby corns vertically sliced
  • 1/2 cup shredded cabbage
  • 1/4 cup spring onions
  • 1 small tomato thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grated cheese
  • 2-3 corn tortillas
  • Oil for cooking, butter for baking
  • Salt as per taste
  • Pepper, basil, thyme, some sea salt and chilli flakes/powder for flavor

I use and swear by the Kirkland Signature USDA Organic No-Salt Seasoning (http://www.amazon.com/Kirkland-Signature-Organic-No-Salt-Seasoning/dp/B002W5SDEQ) which we always ask our friends and relatives in the US to get for us. But otherwise, even the seasoning packet which comes with Dominoes Pizza works well for flavoring.

In a skillet, heat some oil and saute the onions. After about 3-4 minutes add the shredded cabbage,  carrot slices and baby corn verticals. Put a lid on the skillet ad let this cook for about 5 minutes.

In another bowl mix the sweet corn and green peas and add some water and microwave it for 3 minutes or steam for about 5 minutes, and then drain the water and add it to the veggies in the skillet.

Add some salt, and the seasonings as per taste, mix it well and put the lid back on for about 2-3 more minutes.

The filling is ready.

IMG_4836

Take a medium sized glass baking dish and lightly line it with butter.

Place one tortilla on the dish and layer it with vegetable filling and sprinkle some cheese on top. Repeat with another layer of tortilla, veggies, tomato slices, and then a generous layer of cheese. Sprinkle some coriander and it is ready to bake.

IMG_4863

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees C and bake the enchiladas. Normally it takes about 10 minutes once the oven is heated, but be careful to not let the cheese particles on the sides of the baking dish to burn. (It still tastes amazingly crisp, but looks a little odd)

IMG_4884

Done! Easy enchiladas are ready to be eaten.

IMG_4889

Bon-apetit!

Cheers,

R