Sunday, 22 January 2017

Pistachio Pound Cake With Strawberries And Cream

If you've read this blog for some time, you must know how much I love to work with recipes where the focus is on the fruit of the season. My first foray of baking with fruit began with Isidora Popovic's 'Popina Book of Baking'. My very first recipe on this blog came from that book. I was absolutely taken in by how the fruit added so much more to the flavour and freshness of my bakes. 

I, then followed it up with Nigel Slater's 'Ripe : A Cook in the Orchard', a book that opened up a collection of recipes that paired fruit in sweet as well as savoury dishes. And my latest addition to this small collection is Yossy Arefi's 'Sweeter off the Vine'. Yossy is the voice behind the blog, 'Apt. 2B Baking Co'. I adore everything about this Brooklyn based baker and photographer's blog..the recipes, the photography and now I'm completely taken in with her book. If you enjoy baking and somehow, haven't yet discovered her blog, I'd seriously recommend it. 

The season of fruits in India may differ from those in these books but each of the books mentioned above always has space for recipes that work with strawberries, the fruit currently in season. Out of all of the book's recipes with strawberries, I zeroed in on the pistachio pound cake that is paired with strawberries and cream. I do have my eye on the strawberry and campari ice pops but those will have to wait for the weather to get a bit warmer.

I was intrigued by the pistachio pound cake. I have used almond meal in my cakes and have loved the depth and richness that it has given my cakes but have never worked with pistachios. And what an absolute delight this pound cake was. 

Who doesn't love a good, hearty pound cake and the pistachios give it that something extra to stand apart from your regular pound cake. You can taste the pistachios but it is not overpowering at all. It just adds a lil something special to the wholesomeness of a pound cake.

The recipe pairs thick slices of this cake with strawberries macerated in a lavender sugar and cream. While the idea of lavender sugar had me really excited, unfortunately I couldn't get my hands on it out here. So, I adapted by macerating the strawberries in vanilla and some liqueur. 

Serving strawberries and cream with this cake immediately elevates it as an elegant dessert. However, if you don't want to serve it with strawberries and cream, I assure you that pound cake, warm out of the oven, with a cup of tea is still a winner.

Hope you all had a lovely weekend..xx!

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Orange, Fig And Cardamom Cake

Nothing like a new year to start afresh with this blog. Last year was a nondescript year for me and yours truly is more than ready to welcome the new year. As for this blog, it seems that all I managed was nine posts for the whole of 2016. So, this year will be all about getting all those posts floating around in my head onto this little space of mine. 

And getting straight onto the job with a cake that I baked this weekend. For some reason, almost every post in the latter half of the year was chocolate. So, am taking a break from chocolate and turning to my other love, baking with the fruit of the season.

That would be figs and oranges today. I found this cake in Nigel Slater's 'Ripe', his weighty ode to cooking with the fruit in season. This is essentially an almond cake, flavoured with oranges and cardamom that has a layer of fresh figs, running through the middle of the cake. As the cake bakes, the figs cook into a soft, jammy consistency.

Once baked, a lemon and orange syrup is then poured on top of the hot cake. You will be tempted to give it a miss but don't. You will appreciate the citrus syrup when you help yourself to a slice. 

The cake does not score high on looks but cut yourself a slice and you will realise that all the drama is in the taste and texture of this cake.

This is a moist cake that uses not only almond meal but chopped almonds too and that gives it this nutty, grainy texture, very different from your regular cake. This is a cake where you must wait till it completely cools down or else you won't taste all the flavours that this cake promises. On first taste, it's the orange that will hit you but later you will discern the cardamom as well as a hint of lemon from the citrus syrup. The cake looks so moist that I wondered if it was too sweet but turns out that the syrup in fact infuses it with extra citrus notes that balances out any fears on the sugar front. 

Whist figs are a personal favourite, any other fruit such as strawberries or plums should work just as well.  
As the new year started, articles all over were about how we need to slow down, be mindful and move out of our social media bubbles. I couldn't agree more. So, here's to a new year, where you make the time to discover, connect, embrace and rejoice in life's simpler pleasures. Happy New Year..x!

Friday, 23 December 2016

Ginger, Orange And Date Cookies

I have been lazy.. ..plain lazy. I have all these posts in my head and that's just where they stay. All December I've been seeing these posts counting down to Christmas and told myself I have enough time to do all the posts I wanted to. And here I am two days before Christmas, scouring cookery books and websites for an apt Christmas dessert. We may not celebrate Christmas at home but it's always an occasion to take out the pretty plates and twinkly lights and raise a toast to the good times!

So, while I search for my Christmas dessert for the year, I made some cookies. Mama hinted two week back how she wouldn't mind if I baked her a batch of cookies to go with her tea. Of course, I procrastinated and finally with the Christmas inspiration all round, these cookies were thought of and baked this afternoon.

These are simple eggless cookies infused with the flavours of the season. I like the fact that the recipes uses fresh ginger as opposed to ground ginger. When they first came out of the oven, they looked so nondescript that I wondered how I could jazz them up. But, taste them and you realise that these cookies need no help. 

You will taste the ginger and the orange, and neither are overpowering. With the first bite, you might wonder if these cookies need a bit more sugar but once you encounter the dates, it all makes sense.

These are not fancy show-off cookies. These are regular cookies to go with your daily cuppa. And it helps that they hardly take any time to put together. Although, when you buy the dates, buy the pitted ones, something I clearly did not check while buying them myself!

I think I have narrowed down my dessert for Christmas and hopefully I can get it done in time, with a post to show for it. But, knowing my track record with this blog this year, I won't say much till I get the post done, for sure. So, fingers crossed!

But, what about everyone else? Anyone hosting a Christmas dinner or baking something special or any other special plans for the weekend? I'd love to hear about itl!

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Hibiscus And Mint Lemonade

Where did the past few weeks go?! While I try and get my head round that question, I hope you had a beautiful Diwali, with your friends and family. As many plans with this blog this year, my plan for my annual Diwali post fell by the wayside. But, I do hope you managed to take time out for the occasion.

As for the year, cooler nights are here and I look forward to cooler days. I am a cold weather person. Maybe it helps that Winter never gets too cold in my part of the world. But, frankly I won't mind if it did get colder. I enjoy that crispness in the air that comes with Winter mornings. I am a different person in the Winters..more alive, more energetic and generally, more enthusiastic about life. And of course, my commiserations to all those heading towards sub-zero weather!

As I ease back into the blogging routine, which I hope I will be more regular at this Winter, I have a simple hibiscus lemonade that I tried my hand at over the Diwali weekend. The days are still quite warm to warrant a glass of lemonade. And as it happens that at this time of the year, the hibiscus trees are flowering and my little mint plant from last year is also thriving. So, you put the three together and you have this refreshing ruby coloured lemonade. 

Essentially, you brew a tea of the fresh, hibiscus flowers which you then combine with a mint, lemon syrup to make this lemonade. It is essential that you have access to fresh hibiscus that are not sprayed with any kind of pesticide. It would be better to avoid any hibiscus from the commercial market as they might run that risk. 

The lemonade is well, lemony, minty and tastes of something else that I can only attribute to the hibiscus. If all your ingredients are fresh, you will be able to taste every component. And if you like, you could replace the water with some sparkling water to give it some fizz.

Which also brings up the question, why hibiscus lemonade? Well, it's a fun twist to jazz up your regular lemonade. Although, I am told that red hibiscus has tremendous therapeutic value, especially for its cooling effect on the body which would make it ideal for the warmer months. But, it still works for me as the days have not yet cooled down here. 

Anyhow, this is something small that I wanted to share with you as I mull over all that I want to do this Winter. I really hope I can get back to blogging more often. I really do miss this space..I hope you've been well!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Lemon And Yoghurt Ciambella

The seasons are changing. It's been a good monsoon in my little corner of the world and I can now sense it's retreat. And this year, I have accepted every bit of the monsoon, without a word of complaint. I love the rains but there have always been spells before, when I said, enough, the rain need to take a breather. But, not this year. Not after that absolutely horrific and brutal Summer we had to endure. 

So, yes I have accepted every mood and every spell of the rains. From days, when the sheer excess of it swept away all that it came in contact with to the day when, it teased us with a little drizzle with the promise of more to come. I have enjoyed seeing the landscape turn from that dried-out, parched shade of brown to that playful, vibrant shade of light green that speaks of revival to that dark, saturated shade of verdant green that tells you that the monsoon has kept its promise. Little, white flowers whose scent were a Summer evening's only retribution have made way for rich, vibrant flowers, all in time for the upcoming festive season. So yes, its been a good season and the seasons are now changing. 

But, whatever be the season, there's always time for some cake. And this time, it's a lemon cake. For no other reason, that all my recent posts after the Summer have been chocolate based and that needed to change. 

This is a lemon and yoghurt cake, baked in a ring tin and then topped with a lemon, sugar drizzle. The recipe is by Donna Hay and it can't be simpler. You literally have to bunk all the ingredients in a bowl, stir and then put it to bake. 

And no, you cannot ignore that drizzle. I know my photographs don't do it photogenic justice, but trust me, you can't leave it out. That's what ups the lemon quotient and leaves that twang in your mouth, the kind you are left with after say, a lemon tart. But learn from me and let the sugar dissolve, just a wee bit so that the juices release and its a more spreadable consistency.

I've used demerara sugar as I now do with most of my baking and is the reason why my crumb is that shade of brown as opposed to a white crumb, if I had used regular sugar. Use whatever you have at home. I have used a bundt cake tin, but this cake can also be baked it a regular cake tin or even loaf tin.

Goes without saying, bake this cake only if you love lemons. Else, you are better off baking another cake.

I have called this cake a 'ciambella', that's Italian for a bundt cake. I could have called it a bundt cake but for some reason, I found the word ciambella (pronounced cham-bel-la) so evocative. You can just imagine the whole scene. One of the little villages along the Amalfi coast with its pastel coloured houses and the boats bobbing in the sea. The air is perfumed with the scent of lemons and while the catch of the day is being unloaded, you sit with your journal with a cup of coffee and a slice of this lemon ciambella. What a lovely way to start the day. Ohh..indulge a girl and her arm chair travels! 

Have a beautiful weekend, wherever you are, all you lovely people!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Chocolate And Cardamom Scented Swirl Buns

There's something about the Olympics that grips me every time. I don't have an athletic bone in my body and I have hardly played any sport. And it's not just about watching sports being played at the highest level that has me fixated on the Sports channels. It is about watching these athletes pursue a goal, in exclusion of everything else in life, with a single minded focus and dedication. That years of preparation and training, against all odds, to compete at the highest level comes down to a result that is determined within minutes or in some cases, seconds. While the exuberance of watching the champion succeed is special, it is even more inspiring to watch other athletes who face disappointment but pick themselves up to fight another day. Add to that, the personal stories of these athletes and the challenging circumstances they overcome to pursue their dreams and you are left with nothing but the highest respect and admiration. 

It's been a real bummer that because of the time difference with Rio, we haven't been able to catch all the events as they happen. The events I look out for are gymnastics, athletics, synchronised swimming, archery and shooting. What about you??

As for these swirl buns, they are a product of a rainy afternoon when staying in was the only option. And afterall, is there anything more appropriate than a calorie loaded chocolate bun while watching these athletes perform with their beautifully toned bodies and washboard abs?!

I have been seeing these buns by Donal Skehan all over social media and had to give them a try. It helps that he has put up a video that explains the whole process in simple steps. It is a dough that is enriched with milk and butter that is then filled with a layer of dark chocolate and then twirled into these buns. The dough is flavoured with cardamom, in the tradition of Scandinavian breads, which pairs beautifully with the chocolate. The swirls and twirls all look a bit complex but see the video, it's actually quite simple!

What comes out of the oven are these beautiful, soft cardamom-scented buns with that swirl of dark chocolate. And despite all the issues that we have with metabolism, I insist that you should make them. And oh yes, do eat them warm, straight out of the oven!!

What could I have done better? I could have shaped the buns smaller and more compact and since, I didn't have any eggs at home, I gave the buns, a cream wash rather than an egg wash which would have resulted in a more richer golden brown colour on them. Pointers for the next time, for I'll be definitely making these again.

As for the Olympics, I think we all stayed awake at Midnight to watch Dipa Karmakar make history and show us the champion she is. Happy Independence Day everyone..I hope you've enjoyed the long weekend..x!

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookies

It was at the height of Summer, when the mind was too distressed to indulge in any kind of voluminous reading, that I picked up this slim book with a green cover and blue edged pages. It was Ruskin Bond's latest and was simply titled, 'A Book of Simple Living : Brief Notes from the Hills'. I figured since I couldn't make it to the hills, which in an ideal world I would escape to, for the three brutal months of Summer, I'd find some comfort in Ruskin Bond's words that have always celebrated the magic of the mountains. 

And what an enchanting read it turned out to be. The notes, most no more than a page, are written with the author's trademark simplicity, honesty and a certain childlike wonder. I simply let the words wash over me as he wrote about life's simple joys and even simpler truths. Be it the mountain view from his window as the season change or the daisies growing out of the rocks or the memory of a past love or the sound of a gushing mountain or simply, a sweet appreciation for the balm that solitude provides. So that even on an excruciatingly, unbearable Summer's afternoon, whilst stuck in an air-conditioned room, one was left with no option but to smile. 

And then a few weeks later, I would come across his very first book, 'The Room on the Roof', a special illustrated edition to mark it's 60th anniversary. As he himself explains, the book was written by him, when in a foreign land, terribly lonely, he wrote down all his memories of a time, when egged on by adolescent energy and rebellion, he broke off the shackles of authority and propriety to embrace a world of colour, adventure, angst, desire, excitement, envy, joy and a multitude of other emotions that one grapples with at that age.

It's interesting to place the two books, side by side. One, as Bond puts it, is a 'book about adolescence by an adolescent', capturing the emotions of one, on the cusp of life. The other is written by a man, who has just turned eighty, sharing his secrets of contentment, whilst acutely aware of his own mortality. What they both have in common is the honesty and simplicity that run through their pages which has the ability to look you in the eye, prompting you to pause and look within. With the two books, you are privy to one man's journey through life. And you are left with one of life's most enduring messages. That to shrug off life's rancour, hostility and disappointment and to arrive at your twilight years with a twinkle in your eyes, a smile on your face and laughter in your voice, is in living in the moment, moving on from the past, building a bond with nature and appreciating life's smaller and simpler moments. Because as he writes, "Happiness is a mysterious thing, to be found somewhere between too little and too much"

And talking about the simple things in life are these chocolate chip cookies that I baked. Choc chip cookies are one of those baked goods that everyone bakes, everyone has a recipe of and everyone has an opinion on. I zeroed in on a recipe that has popped up in countless blogs, with each one saying this recipe met the brief for what they were looking for in a chocolate chip cookie. Why, it even won BuzzFeed's Chocolate Chip Cookie Taste-A-Thon (yes, they do have something like that!), fending off some serious competition.

The recipe is by Tara O'Brady, the voice behind the blog, 'Seven Spoons' and this recipe appears in her debut cookbook by the same name. What draws me most about the recipe is how fuss free it is. You don't need to bring the eggs and butter to room temperature. You don't even need a hand mixer, a bowl and a whisk will do just fine. Although what is non-negotiable is that you should use chopped up chocolate chunks instead of standard chocolate chips. You choose whether you want to rest the dough or bake them right away, although I'd recommend that you let the dough rest overnight.

Because, the cookies that will emerge from your oven have nothing to fault them with. They are slightly crispy, slightly chewy and those little islands of warm, melty dark chocolate have the power to set the world right. I don't like to use the term 'best ever' but let's just say, I reckon your search for a chocolate chip cookie recipe will end with this one. So, when you do get the time, give it a shot.

Tom Alter, captured the essence of Ruskin Bond's work when he writes, "Ruskin knew that life was not a childhood game, but he also knew that the game of childhood was the only way to survive life".

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