Orange Chocolate chip loaf cake – robust and simple as life mostly is.

There are moments when I terribly miss Paris. The omnipresent Eiffel tower, the sunset over the Seine, the fancy-dressed musicians on the streets, colorful pavlovas dotting the patisseries, tiny little espressos, copper pots clinging to the walls, demure little macaroons, the flea markets, Rodin’s Thinker, carefully curated gardens, the morning vegetable markets, foie grass, carousels and all, but most importantly Danielle, my host in Paris and now my friend.

It was partly because of Danielle, a friend of my dear friend, that my Paris dream came true. I remember the first time I met her, on the bus stop where I was waiting for her to pick me up. I always thought Parisian women are very snooty (and believe me they are), but Danielle looked very kind and warm. She willingly took me to her beautiful apartment and instantly I knew that this month in paris, her home and she, will be a cherished part of my life for years to come.

I miss that 71-year-old, young friend of mine very dearly. At-least once a day, I catch myself remembering something she said, or something around her house, or the French potato gratin she made on my first day in Paris. Sometimes the wine bottle sitting on my shelf makes me think of her so much that I have a temptation to pour a little in a glass and swirl it to check its notes. Or simply make a creamy fish like she did and may be the aroma of the cream being baked will make me feel close to her.

Her bedroom, the room which she gave me generously for a month, was idyllic, like those you see on Pinterest. White French windows with pink and violet flowers in the balcony and the room full of books. How fervently I hoped I could read French, those books were alluring. And Danielle, whose daughter in law is from Kolkatta, and who visits India every year had very cleverly used cotton sarees as in-house curtains. Simple, yet so elegant.

The day before I started school in Le Cordon Bleu, she carefully showed me the way to school, which metro to take, which exit to walk out of, and all in English because I hardly understood French. Oh how it tired her, the act of thinking in French, translating and then talking in English. But we had some great conversations. I always used to look forward to having breakfast or lunch with her, and talking about the oddities of life, the dreams, hopes, desires, tales of cruising along through life and its myriad colorful lanes. How she would say Oh là là when she remembered a sweet thing, and how her eyes would go silent when talking of something estranged. Oh I miss her voice, her pause when she is remembering an english word, her acceptance of reality, her zest to help an older 85-year-old lady staying upstairs, her caramelised leek roast-  the way her mom made it, the opera music filling the room when she knitted, and oh, simply her presence. I miss all of it so bad that I have to exhale deeply to empty my heart of the longing to see her.

Danielle invited me to her book club meetings, took me out for a classic French dinner, invited her friends and family so that I could meet them, showed me photos of her in her young days, took me around Paris, we even went for a Bollywood movie, and patiently listened to my tales from patisserie school every day and ensured that I don’t feel home-sick. And she did it all with such finesse that it never felt that she was intruding in my life, but was always solidly present.

All through the day I could go waltzing around Paris or be in the school for 9 hours, because I knew I would have company at night, someone to report the events of the day before going to sleep. Someone to pull me out of trouble if I get into one, while in Paris. Someone to look after me when I was an ocean away from home and someone to simply ask me how was my day or if I had proper dinner.

Five weeks later, when it was time to leave, she came to drop me off at the bus station and while bidding goodbye, a silent lonesome tear trickled down my face. Not a sad tear but a thankful, indebted one. And her parting words to me , the ones that got etched in my mind were “Thank you, you were kind to me.” It was the simplest, least dramatic but very emotional good-bye which was more of a see-you soon than a farewell. It was the beginning. Of a new friendship. Of a new me.


Today I will share with you all a simple go-to chocolate chip pound cake recipe. It can be baked in an hour and sometimes all you need is an uncomplicated chocolate flavor, with a hint of orange. Nothing fancy and assuming, but something robust yet tender, like a grandma’s wholesome cake.

Chocolate chip cake with oranges

Orange Chocolate Chip pound cake

What you will need:

  • 240 gm all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 225 gm salted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (only if using unsalted butter)
  • 200 gm granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated orange zest
  • 2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

What to do :

  1. Pre-heat oven to 175C. Generously butter a 9*5 inch loaf pan.
  2. Whisk together flour and baking powder to mix evenly and break any clumps.
  3. Beat sugar and butter till pale in color.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time till fully incorporated. Add orange zest.
  5. Fold in the dry ingredients with a spatula, taking care to not over-mix.
  6. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon the batter in the prepared pan and level it with the spatula.
  8. Bake for 40-60 minutes till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  9. Once baked, let it rest for 15 minutes before removing from pan and transferring to a cooling rack.
  10. Serve with fresh orange pulp , drizzled with some chocolate syrup.

Orange chocolate chip cake

Notes :

  • Resist the temptation to cut into the cake till it has considerably cooled down, or it has a tendency to crumble when hot.
  • The orange zest can be substituted with vanilla extract/ vanilla essence, but I highly recommend orange zest.

 

Piastachio Chocolate chip cake and summer vacations

Today morning while watering the various plants dotting our balconies, I suddenly felt as if my grandfather was standing besides me. Instructing me to take note of the leaves and flowers. Judge the soil and decide the correct level of watering. I was transported back 20 years in time. To another summer when you could be in your shorts, sit in the mud and talk to plants all day long.

And then go up on the terrace, take a big slice of watermelon and hog it down. Staining your clothes pink and spitting the seeds all over. A time which seemed to go on, and day which seemed like one chunk of time. Not divided in morning, afternoon or evening. Because you could eat breakfast for lunch, take a shower in the afternoon and have an ice-cream whenever you wish. It was the summer vacation time. At my grandparents house with my cousins.

Every year, we would have such uninterrupted vacation for at least 15 days or even more. The hot blazing sun overhead did not matter, neither did the bruises on the knees. I was more acquainted with G.I.Joes and fighting techniques than Barbie dolls, because my cousin and his best friend were both guys. Who loved fighting. With each other, with the armored figurines or with me. He-man – The master of the Universe came into my life way earlier than dolls and dresses. I learnt to brat my way through, to get the maximum number of mangoes or to be the last one to take a shower.

I remember getting lots of candies then, which we would deposit with my grandpa in his big jar of candies. And every day we got to put our hand in the multi-colored candy jar and pick out the biggest candy. And then scare the world with our newly colored red green or blue tongues. The jar never ran out of candy, and our minds out of things to do. At the end of every exciting activity was a turn which led to another activity. So we would wake up and go out to pluck flowers for the daily pooja (a daily prayer ritual), then eat breakfast teemed up with a lot of fruits, make mud castles, go swimming, play with the dog, then a mandatory break for lunch, eat ice-cream(s), make origami animals, paint (sometimes books and sometimes walls), wait on the porch for my uncle and aunt to return from work and then go to the Appughar – local Disneyland, come back sweaty and itchy, take a shower, and then relax while listening to some historical stories and some fairy tales. And then dream. Dream of Shivaji Maharaj and dreams of being Rapunzel.

That was a time when there were no video games or Ipads. We played with Lego and doll houses and sand castles. We read from books which were made of paper and real pages which had to be turned to know what comes next. With our little hands and big thoughts, we were planting seeds of what would become of us. Those were the long uninterrupted days filled with possibilities. Of spotting a new bird or sucking the honey from a flower bud. Or just lying down and viewing the sun from our tin kaleidoscopes.

Rutvika


Pistachio Chocolate Chip Cake

This cake is as simple as childhood dreams. Nothing fancy, just some ground pistachios, ground almonds and chocolate chips which will melt in your mouth. I had seen this recipe in a magazine in Paris, inspired from a cake served in Rose Bakery, Pigalle. Try it, you will love the distinctive pistachio flavor.

close up of pistachio cake

What you will need:

  • 225 gm sugar
  • 200 gm butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 100 gm toasted pistachios, finely ground and sieved
  • 100 gm toasted almonds, finely ground and sieved
  • 200 gm all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter)
  • 200 gm chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

What to do:

  1. Butter and line a loaf pan or a 10 inch round cake pan. Pre-heat the oven to 170°C.
  2. In a large bowl, beat butter and sugar together till creamy and light in color.
  3. Then add the eggs, one at a time, fully incorporating it before adding the next one.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract.
  5. In another bowl mix together pistachio powder, almond powder, flour and baking powder.
  6. Gently fold in the dry ingredients with the egg mixture till it all comes together. Mix in the chocolate chips.
  7. Spoon the batter into the loaf pan.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes (for the bigger loaf) , or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Notes:

  1. The pistachio flavor is over-powering the almonds, but the almond powder keeps the cake wonderfully moist.
  2. Be careful to not let any pistachio shell get ground. It will be a nightmare to bite into a piece with the pointy shell in the cake. Hence i recommend sieving the pistachio powder.
  3. I used almonds with the skin to give it a slightly golden brown color. Feel free to use skin-less almonds if you prefer a greener color from the pistachios.
  4. You can use un-toasted nuts, but toasting releases the oils, and hence the flavors.

Pistach cake slice