Fruit and Nut chocolate Muffins

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The sweeter side-effect of Diwali is all the leftover mithai and chocolates. This time we had a box full of Dairy milk chocolates which we converted into these muffins. A Sunday baking with my son is the good way to relax, ableit you have to ignore all the mess those little hands make.
The Diary milk can easily be replaced with similar quantity chocolate chips or any other chopped chocolate . The texture of these muffins is slightly on the dry side which many people seem to prefer over the heavy moist cupcakes. I have dressed them up with plain chocolate melted over a double boiler, cooled and then spooned over the cupcakes.
 Dairy Milk Fruit and Nut muffins. 
Ingredients :
  • 300 gm all purpose flour (maida)
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 125 gram salted butter, softened, I use Amul
  • 100 gm castor sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream (I use Tropolite)
  • 125-150 gram Dairymilk fruit and nut, chopped into small pieces.
  • 180 gm chocolate melted for frosting

What to do :

  1. In a small bowl, mix all purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix it and sift it together.
  2. In another bowl, take the softened butter and castor sugar. Whisk it with an electric mixer for 3-4 minutes, till it becomes ribbonlike soft and combined.
  3. Add the eggs, one at a time while mixing together.
  4. Then with a spatula fold in the dry ingredient mixture alongwith the heavy cream, alternately. Always start and end with the dry ingredients.
  5. Fold in the chopped chocolate.
  6. Pre-heat oven to 180C.
  7. Line the cupcake pan with cupcakes liners. Spoon the mixture into the liner, about 2/3rd cup full.
  8. Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 mins, till they are springy and soft to touch.
  9. Take the pan out of the oven and let it cool down in the pan for 15-20 mins and then invert it on a wire rack to let it cool down further.
  10. Melt the chocolate over double boiler for frosting the cupcakes, and frost it once the cupcakes completely cool down.

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Notes :

  1. I put the chopped chocolate in the fridge for 15 mins before putting them in the cupcake batter. This ensure that the chocolate doesn’t sink top the bottom while baking.
  2. The batter is quite thick as the ratio of flour to wet ingredients is high. Spoon it into the cupcake liners for baking.

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Wonder what a book release feels like?

Sonali mami

To be very honest with you, I have always wanted to write. Ever since I was a little girl who had sent a silly eight-line poem to the Barbie magazine, I wanted to write. But I had no idea what I could write about. Someone once suggested that I write for the Chartered Accountant magazine, but I found that really boring. So for a long time I did nothing, except write in my diary occasionally and write a few letters and notes.

Then about two years back I started blogging about food. And little tidbits of life with it. As life went on, I searched my memory for fragments of story and wrote about it. Sometimes coherently, at times random little stuff stitched together with words. I am not sure what the reader gets of it, but I find great joy in writing.

Then about three-four months back came a period when nothing I wrote made sense to me. I read a lot of blogs online, columns in newspapers and literary journals. After reading those, my words felt insufficient. My ideas naive. I started thinking that everyone writes so much better than me; perhaps I should stop this part of the blog and only continue to write about baking.

Back when I was a teenager I nurtured the dreams of becoming a journalist. For a while. But at that time I could never write anything more than the school essays. My best friend Ketki used to write short stories and poems and I thought if I can’t write even that much, may be I should think of another career line. And eventually, I let it go and became a CA instead.

Then two months back, my husband’s aunt – Sonali mami had come to India from US with her two teenage kids. She is a published author and her second book is on the way. One evening while I was feeding Arjun, she asked me – “So you want to write a book?”.

I fumbled, and started thinking when had I told that to her? At the back of my head I have perhaps thought that I want to publish a book, sometime way in the future. I have no idea what it would be about. How did she find out?

Sonali mami realised that I am feeling embarrassed about it and she told me to relax. She said that I should not think that I am thinking of writing a book because she has. In fact if there has to be any connection, it should be a positive one. I should benefit from her experience in writing, editing and publishing.

She told me a story of how she wanted to be a journalist when she was studying, but the girl her elder brother dated was also a journalist. Afraid that everyone might say that she wanted to become a journalist just because of her brother’s girlfriend, she dropped the idea and went for architecture instead. But writing did not leave her mind and her heart. She did technical writing for a software company and simultaneously worked on her first book –  The Bollywood Affair, which got excellent reviews everywhere. Even from the industry bigwigs like Kristina Higgins, Nalini Singh and even my favourite Nora Roberts. It also got nominated for the RITA and the RT Reviews choice which are the two highest awards in the genre. 

Now her second book The Bollywood Bride was released last week and it is so beautiful. The entire weekend I lived with Ria and Vikram, their story, feeling their love and pain, their guilt and euphoria, and itched to finish the book so that I find out how it ends. But I wanted to linger, savour the lovely Indian-America wedding setting. The book reaches out to you, so much so that this Monday morning I am wearing a turquoise kurta like Ria wore in the book. 🙂

Sometimes it is difficult to imagine that a very close family member is really a published author, at an international level. Sonali mami’s best friend is the producer of the movie Mr. and Mrs. Iyer. (Remember that one? My friend and I watched it together when we were 18 or so and oh how we loved it!) and her sister-in-law is the fabulous Irawati Harsh- another stellar actress. Sonali mami has access to a lot of Bollywood gossip and I lurk around her to hear some of it. So it wont be surprising if these gorgeous books get made into movies. The story already has enough masala for a movie. 

And if that isn’t enough, she has beautifully raised two kids while having a full time job till now. When we were thinking of planning  a child my husband would often (reassuringly?) tell me that I will be as good a mother as Sonali mami is.

I don’t know about that, but several years later, if I ever write a book, she will be on my list of dedications. Sonali Dev is a living example of achieving your dreams while managing a job, two kids, a husband who is travelling 10 days a month and a cute little dog Simba.

sonali books

For now, let me snap out of the dream world I lived in for the last 2-3 days and get back to work 🙂

Cheers,

Rutvika

*******       *******       *******

Cupcakes or muffins are my favourite quick bakes whenever someone shows up suddenly. They are easy to whip up and still look festive.

I have made these chocolate chip muffin several times, sometimes using white chocolate chips, sometimes dark chocolate sometimes a mix of both. This one bowl recipe here is a winner and I have dolled it up with some slightly coloured buttercream.

White choco chip cupcakes

White Chocolate Chip cupcakes

What you will need :

  • 110 gram butter at room temperature (I use slightly salted Amul butter)
  • 75 grams caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs at room temperature
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 175 grams all purpose flour (maida)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 110 ml milk
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Buttercream recipe is from here. Add some milk and a few drops of red colour or strawberry syrup in place of mango juice.

What to do :

  1. Beat butter and both sugars together till light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, incorporating fully before adding the next.
  2. Add vanilla essence and whisk.
  3. Sift flour and baking powder together and keep it aside.
  4. Now add the flour and milk alternately to the butter and sugar mixture in 2 steps. Mix well with a rubber spatula.
  5. Always end with the dry ingredients.
  6. Now add the chocolate chips and stir to combine.
  7. Prepare a 12 case muffin pan and line it with paper cases.
  8. Spoon the mixture into the pan and preheat oven to 170C.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes clean.
  10. Let it cool int he pan for 5 minutes and then cool completely on a wire rack before frosting.

White chcolate crumb cake

Notes :

  1. White chocolate chips caramelise beautifully to give soft crunch. Dark chocolate chips turn gooey and delicious.
  2. Is using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt to balance the flavours.
  3. Use all ingredients at room temperature to avoid over-whisking which leads to cracked tops.

Cupcakes with white chocolate

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

 

Beehive Honey Cupcakes

I do remember.

I recently read an article which said that kids don’t remember anything before seven years of age.It was surprising because I do remember at least a dozen incidents which happened before I turned six. And I also clearly remember that it was before six, because we shifted into a new house at that time and then soon my brother was born. Before that it was just dad, mom and me in a dainty one room and kitchen apartment with big windows and a lot of sunshine.

I clearly remember the layout of the house. The kitchen was huge and we had a double bed along one side of the dining area adjacent to the windows. The morning sun shone brilliantly on that side and several mornings I would be sitting in that window and eating breakfast. Apparently to maximise the absorption of vitamin D in my body. And mom would be tinkering around in the kitchen. Such peaceful mornings, I would stare into the distance and imagine vivid things. Mom was not working at that point of time, and I would have her wholly to myself.

Sometimes it feels strange that the most innocuous incidents get lodged in your memory. My best friend then was a girl who lived next door, she was a year older to me, and at that time seemed so much wiser. She knew a lot of things I didn’t. And while we were a strictly vegetarian family, they regularly cooked fish. I was amazed at the way her mom cleaned and cooked the fish. We would also play a little game where her father would be bitten by a snake and we were doctors, curing him. I am sure, we must have played so many more interesting and awesome games, but that little snake bite act is the only game I remember.

My dad was a cop, and he always worked in shifts. So while most dads were not available to pick up and drop off kids at school, my dad would be there. In fact, (now this I don’t remember, I have seen the photograph), my dad was the one to drop me off in school on the first day. I loved sitting on the scooter with him, hugging him tightly at the waist and looking at the world left behind. And yes, imagine that we were on a horse, racing with other horses, and of course always winning. Even later on, he would take me and my brother on hour long rides. The fresh air constantly brushing on my face left me refreshed and sleepy at the same time. Those really were simpler times. Way fewer resources and comforts, but that was more than required.

I also remember two-three accidents where I hurt my finger or my lip got a tear and needed a stitch. May be the visible trauma of that incident gave it more importance.

Now when we are on the verge of having kids, I always wonder what they will remember when they grow up. We obsess over creating warm and cherishable moments for them, think and plan exotic and fancy events, so that they would have a store of great experiences. But there is no guarantee what would get registered in their tiny little brains. Perhaps the most mundane of activities, like having dinner with parents and grandparents everyday would be a highlight or the few minutes in the morning spent snuggling up to dad before going to school. Or may be just the way a stream of light comes in through the window every evening creating a mosaic of colors on the floor.

We have no idea. But that doesn’t stop us from weaving plans of ‘we will do this and we will do that once the kids are born’. I already imagine myself singing my favourite songs to the baby, and dancing with him/ her to a particular chirpy song playing on the radio.

The kid may not remember it, but I will. For them and for myself.

*******       *******       *******

Last week, I stumbled upon Donna Hays‘ website. She is a veteran Australian baker and most of her recipes use salted butter, which is the one we get here in India. And what beautiful photos! Go visit her sit, you will love it.

I tried her Beehive Cupcakes and they were a hit. The honey in the cupcakes caramelises beautifully to give a soft crunch at the base and on the sides. I added a bit of orange oil to get a nice flavor and yes made the meringue frosting without the cream of tartar. And it whipped up beautifully.

beehive cupcakes

Donna Hay’s Beehive Honey Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes

What you will need :

  • 125 gm softened butter
  • 165 gm caster sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange extract or orange oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 185 gm all purpose flour sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup milk

Meringue frosting

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar with some yellow food color, for decoration

What to do : 

  1. Pre heat oven to 160C.
  2. Place the butter, sugar, vanilla and honey in big bowl beat until light and creamy.
  3. Gradually add the eggs and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour, baking powder and milk and fold until just combined.
  5. Spoon the mixture into paper lined muffin pans.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a preheated oven till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  7. Cool it on a wire rack.
  8. For the meringue frosting, place sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat and stir until sugar is dissolved.
  9. Once it starts boiling, reduce the heat and continue to simmer for 3 minutes. meanwhile start beating the egg whites till it forms soft peaks.
  10. Then while constantly whisking, pour the sugar syrup over the egg whites in a slow stream, incorporating the syrup int he egg whites.
  11. The egg whites will become hot and continue whisking till it cools down and becomes thick and glossy.
  12. To assemble the cupcakes, cut a round from centre of each cupcake with a melon corer or a cookie cutter.
  13. Place the frosting in a piping bag with 1 cm plain nozzle and pipe it into the centre of each cupcake. Sprinkle with colored sugar for decoration.

Coring and frosting the cupcakes

Notes :

  • If you are using unsalted butter, add a pinch of salt with the butter in step 2.
  • The original recipe called for cream of tartar, so if you wish you can add a pinch of while boiling sugar and water.
  • Egg whites get cooked at the stage when boiling sugar syrup is poured into the egg whites, so don’t worry.
  • The unfrosted cupcakes stay well in an airtight container for at least 5 days.

honey cupcakes