Of Weekends, Baking and Term break time

The dreaded time is here. It is term break time again, and that means a week full of chaos.  Whoever designed these term breaks for children, never consulted the parents! And I say this being a SAHM, I can’t even imagine what it does to parents who work.

The only thing that makes it bearable is that we had a great weekend to kick it off. Actually, I had a great weekend. I had a girls night out with my friends, watched Ek main aur ek tu, while husband stayed at home with daughter. We had nothing to do, so we went sofa shopping on Sunday. We have been advised by so many people to buy sofas from here and ship it to India, we decided to at least check it out, and then make an informed decision. As soon as we stepped in the first showroom(, we realized that Husband and I were after 2 totally different things. He wants a recliner, which goes totally flat. Some of them had trays, and cup holders, and had husband go ga ga over them! While I refused to have them in my living room. Can you imagine that monstrosity? Horrible things  – they look like airplane seats(albeit, roomier and more comfy), why why, why would one want to pay ridiculous amounts to put that in the living room? Husband and daughter loved them though. I prefer fabric over leather, something that feels welcoming, and homey, where I could have loads of colourful cushions. Husband, or course, detests cushions! So needless to say, we certainly did not buy a sofa. Daughter fell in love with some children’s bedrooms on display. We had to peel her away from them. Some of them were so cute, I would love to have one for myself. One of them especially appealed to me, it had a bookshelf along the bed, and that felt just perfect! We came home with a bunch of brochures though.

The whole furniture browsing reminded us of the time when we were totally into doing this sort of thing in Bangalore. Both before booking our flat and after, we used to spend hours pouring over interiors, and visiting show flats, just to get design ideas. Some we would love, some would just show us what not to do – but it was totally fun, all the same. Funnily enough, daughter seemed to enjoy it just as much we did. She even gave us her inputs. Some genes have been passed on, I guess!

We came back home after all that window shopping and baked cookies – heart-shaped ones, teddy bear shaped ones(Deeps, inspired by the ones you did long back), and sweet& salty ones that husband wanted. He had had them in his childhood, and he has never been able to get it in the stores. So I gave it a try, and apparently it was spot on 🙂 Now that made me really happy, after all it is rare when any taste matches up with those in our memories 🙂

After a fun weekend, I can’t really complain if it happens to be term break, can I? So how was your weekends?

This is the way we bake a cake, bake a cake, bake a cake …

..on a cold and frosty Tuesday afternoon…

The best part of blogging is blog-hopping and coming across some wonderful blogs. Yesterday, reading R’s Mom’s post mentioning cakes, had me drooling, and longing to bake.

I haven’t been baking as much as I used to, so just needed a push. R’s Mom mentioned Seema, and I hopped over to hers, only to end up spending half a day drooling over her delicious recipes. Some of her Bengali recipes reminded me of my childhood spent in the houses of my Bengali friends.

After a lot of drooling, and sighing, I came across this zebra cake. I have always loved marble and zebra cakes. I remember eating marble cakes a long, long time ago, and wondering how they manage to assemble the cake with the two colours! One of the first cakes I tried out successfully was a marble cake. Since then I have tried a variety of recipes for marble/zebra cakes. One of my personal favourites was one made with oil instead of butter, but I managed to misplace the recipe. Rather, I don’t remember which website I had consulted to make the cake. So when I came across Seema’s zebra cake with oil, I just had to try it.

Given that I had spent the best part of the day, drooling at recipes, so I had just about enough time to whip up the batter, and get it to the oven, assuming everything went as per schedule. Just as I was measuring out the oil, it dawned on me that I was out of sunflower oil. Oil is one of the sparingly used commodities at my place, so I had forgotten to buy a new bottle. Thankfully I had some olive oil, and added that along with the sunflower oil, sending up a prayer that it would turn out fine, despite my experimentation. Finally the cake batter was in the oven, I had more than an hour on my hands before I had to pick up daughter from school. So I got busy sorting out the rest of the house – which, as usual was a complete mess. At the end of the 40 mins in the oven, as per the recipe, my cake was still wobbly and certainly not cooked. I kept checking every 10 minutes, until the time that I absolutely had to leave to pick up daughter. One part of the cake was done, the other one was not! My oven had really let me down. There was nothing I could possibly do apart from switching off the oven, and leaving the cake in there – and hope, against hope.

It was an hour and a half by the time we got back(daughter had an after-school activity). I opened the oven, full of trepidation. The house was smelling wonderful, but that is hardly any indication of the state of the cake! The cake was cooked! Now I just had to wait until the cake cooled completely to cut it and check it properly.

See how the cake looks all lopsided 😦 All thanks to the uneven heating of the oven. 

Much to my surprise, it tasted and looked quite good inside! Certainly not the prettiest cake or anything, but the stripes were not too bad. Every zebra has unique stripes, they say, mine certainly were unique:) Check these out! Not too bad, don’t you think, after everything that went wrong?

The search for the perfect chewy cookie recipe…

.. has not ended yet, but it sure does throw up some delicious results.

On our weekly shopping trips, if husband happens to be with me, he gets pulled magically to the bakery section loaded with delicious, chewy American cookies. While I lust after the delicious cream cakes and cheesecakes, husband can’t have enough of cookies.   He loves them.  And I would love nothing more than be able to bake them at home. And you guys know how much I love to bake 🙂

So I have been searching, and searching, but have never been able to replicate them to make them as delicious and chewy as the ones in the store. After much searching and researching, I decided to try this recipe. Well, they did not turn out as chewy as I would have liked, but I cannot complain because both husband and daughter loved it. And I have enough to share, so they go with us to the dance class this evening 🙂 See, my clever ways of ensuring that they don’t end up on my hips 😉

The cookie dough – I added white and dark chocolate chips – instead of just dark chocolate chips as mentioned in the recipe. I thought it looks prettier that way.

And here they are ready to go into the oven

And finally out of the oven! Don’t they look lovely?

So who’s joining me for tea?

The recipe – is from Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  4. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

The only thing I did differently was to add both white and dark chocolate chips.

Not so much of a disaster after all!

Remember yesterday’s post about my baking disaster? Well, turns out, it was not a disaster after all.

My cinnamon rolls don’t look great – but they do taste quite all right. At least daugher liked it. I would have loved it to be a little softer and fluffy. I do think that it has to do with the fact that the recipe used water and oil, instead of milk and butter – me and my crazy ideas of healthy eating. As if there is anything healthy about eating cinnamon rolls at all 🙂 But then, that’s me.

So here are the fruits of my efforts. After Bikram’s comment about my baking getting affected because I did not publish pictures, I did not want to take a chance 🙂

This was the first experimental batch.

And then the next, when I gained confidence..

I had ambitiously, planned on making mini cinnamon rolls. Had I thought of the effort involved in shaping little rolls? Apparently not. So finally, I dumped the left over dough into a loaf pan, and this is how is turned out.

I cut it this morning, fingers crossed, hoping against hope that it would be alright, and here’ s how it looked. Cinnamon bread anybody?

And it tasted yum, toasted! After imagining that all that effort was down the drain, I can’t tell you how glad I am that it worked! I still have no idea why it did not double in size, but it rose nicely in the oven.. Next time, I think I am going to experiment with another recipe, and will test the yeast, and the water before starting it. And yes, will use a much smaller quantity as well!

Love at first bite

I don’t have much to say about love at first sight, but I can sure tell you about love at first bite – that happens – happens to me all the time!

One of the many things that I fallen in love with – at first bite is the brownie. The first time I came across brownies was during my first trip to the US. Needless to say, this love for brownies did result in a huge increase in my own weight, but that never deterred me from gobbling them down.

There is something about brownies that I love – the chewy, fudgy chocolatey taste. And what tastes better than a warm brownie served with vanilla ice-cream, topped with nuts and chocolate sauce? That is what I plan to serve to my guests tomorrow. And may I present to you, my first successful attempt at brownies?

I had tried making them a long time back, in Bangalore, when we had bought our first microwave cum conventional oven. Those days, no matter what I did, my brownies turned out more like biscottis. Although that never stopped my team from gobbling it all up – which was a huge relief for me. Somehow I never tried making them since. I have no idea why I never made them before.  Today, I was racking my brains trying to figure out what to make for dessert for dinner tomorrow, when I remembered brownies! So anybody care to share? Daughter has already QA’ed it for me and given her stamp of approval.

In case any of you are interested, the recipe from here. The only change that I made was to include pecans instead of the chocolate chips. You could add walnuts too – we just happen to prefer pecans.

Baked Hara Bhara Kebabs

After the success of the Baked Sabudana Recipe, Uma had asked me to share my Baked Hara Bhara Kebab recipe. Here you go , Uma, dedicated to you 🙂

The first time I tasted a Hara Bhara Kebab was in Ahmedabad, and that taste stayed with me forever. I just loved the taste, the texture everything. So a few years ago, I was experimenting with what to cook, when I decided to try making it, but by baking instead of by deep-frying. Surprisingly, it came put better than I expected. Here is what I how I make it.  I like making these because the added advantage of having green leafy veggies in it.

Baked Hara Bhara Kebabs

Ingredients

2 large potatoes – boiled

1 cup of finely chopped spinach – I used frozen spinach as I always have some stock of it.

1 cup Methi leaves – finely chopped – I used frozen methi too.

1 cup peas – I use the frozen petit pois – we like the taste much better.

1/2 teaspoon of Chat Masala

3 or 4 green chillies – finely chopped  – you can use more or less depending on how you like it.

Handful of coriander – finely chopped.

salt to taste

Method

Defrost all the frozen stuff – if you are using frozen and mix all the ingredients together. Shape into cutlets or kebab shapes.

Grease a baking tray and place the the kebabs. Brush the kebabs with a little oil or spray some cooking oil on it.

Bake at 180 deg for around 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a dip or sauce of your choice. We love this with Maggi Hot and Sweet Ketchup.

Here is how mine turned out.  I was in a bit of a hurry when I made it, so the shapes are not exactly great, but they did taste good.

Trans-Continental Baking Experiment – A Chocolate Mud Cake

A mere two or so years ago, I was the sort of person, who would have looked down her nose at even the concept of ‘meeting people online’. I could not understand how people could make friends with people they met online.

Even when I started blogging, I had no idea that there is a blogging community and that you would interact with others – to say that I was completely clueless would be the biggest understatement. Which is why this is even more amazing for me. One, to meet so many wonderful people on the internet, who you can so identify with, with similar ideas and two, to collaborate with 5 women across the world in a baking experiment, of all the possible things.

It all started with Goofy Mumma(GM) sent a bunch of us (‘A’ , Monika, Trish and me) an email asking for a chocolate mud cake recipe. I don’t bake too many chocolate cakes, so I was of little help. ‘A’ sent across the most delicious sounding recipe from here.  GM tried it and had a few questions and doubts. A flurry of emails went back and forth.  ‘A’ went through the effort of making 2 cakes, following slightly different methods and came out with the most gorgeous(and I am sure,  delicious) cakes. Not just that, she recorded everything she did. And that prompted Monika, myself and Trish to give it a try and GM to give it a second try.

The first time I tried it, I totally forgot to check whether I had enough dark chocolate and realised just as I was making it, that I had run out of dark chocolate. Thankfully, I found a huge slab of white chocolate in my pantry. I also added 50 gms  of cocoa, by replacing it instead of 50 gms of the self-raising flour. I had a really runny mixture and it took me ages to get the cake done. I had also made the mistake of buying a pan of the wrong size.  I had wanted to pick up a 9 inch pan, but ended up with an 8 inch one instead, stupid me! So I had enough batter for an 8 inch cake as well as 16 cupcakes. I was literally praying that it does not become a disaster. I am normally very, very particular about following cake recipes exactly. While I play around with other recipes, baking, I feel, is quite an exact science and I am loath to use approximations or substitutions. So having made so many changes, I was quite apprehensive about the result.

My worry only added, when at the end of 45 minutes(the time mentioned in the recipe, the batter was still liquid in the oven. Finally after 2 hours, and a lot of poking and prodding, the cake was done, albeit with a bunch of cracks.

Not a pretty cake at all. The cupcakes turned out beautifully, not a single crack and they were ready in 45 minutes time – they were just gorgeous, and I forgot to take pictures. In my defense, I had a busy day, I was having friends over for dinner, and had a lot on my mind. Well, as they say, looks are deceptive. The cake was the most divine tasting cake ever! It was moist and absolutely delicious! My friends took home the leftovers. I kept aside some for Poohi which disappeared the very next day. The cupcakes went to work with husband and were never seen again.

Inspired by the gorgeous results that the others had with the recipe, I was tempted to give it one more shot. This time, I was determined to follow the recipe properly and follow all the tips and suggestions that everybody else had added after their own experience with the cake.  So I went and bought myself a stash of dark chocolate and set about it all over again. You know, when I plan to do something right, I almost definitely make some really dumb mistake. This time, I ended up pouring the chocolate mixture into the flour, instead of the eggs. In my defense, both the bowls were next to each other. I know, it is a lame defense. Then on, I followed everything, and hoped that this time, my cake turns out pretty.

This is how it turned out. Not as bad as the previous time, but still with some cracks.

So to take the attention away from the sad cracks, I just inverted it and dusted it with icing sugar. The dusting was not done very well, though.

A slice of chocolate mud cake anyone?

The most amazing part of this experiment was that feeling of being part of a group, knowing that someone, even if on the other corner of the world, was there to talk to, to ask for suggestions.. The sort of tips and information that just flowed in those emails was absolutely wonderful! We discovered things which we took for granted was new information for somebody else, and learnt some really cool tips from the others.. It was such a collaborative effort. The joy at seeing my friends’ gorgeous cakes was more than seeing my own.  I would refresh my inbox every time I could, just in case, you know 🙂 Girls, thank you so much for all that! GM, A BIG thanks for starting it all off.

To see the other gorgeous, yummilicious cakes, hop over to ‘A’s, GM’s, Monika’s and Trish’s. And if any of you are in the vicinity here, please drop over, I have my last attempt stowed away in the freezer 🙂

How to line a round baking tin

A quick apology to all of you who have no interest in baking or baking tins, this is specially for some special friends of mine 🙂

I used to have a tough time lining my cake tins before I came across this technique on a show on TV. It is really simple and the cakes come out perfect.

First we need to cut a round piece of baking parchment to line the base.

Step 1

Measure your cake tin or if you know the size, that’s perfect.

Step 2

Cut out a square piece of the baking parchment the size of the diameter of the tin . So if it is an 8 inch tin, it needs to be an 8 inch square. It does not need to be a perfect square.

Step 3

Now fold it into 2 and then again until it looks like the last picture.

Step 4

Mark a point on the folded paper, which is exactly 4 inches(half of the diameter of the cake tin) from the centre of the fold and cut across the fold.

And there you have the perfect circle!

And it fits perfectly into the pan. I normally place it in the pan and check to see if the dimensions are perfect. If it is a little larger, then just re-fold and trim away until it fits perfectly. If the circle is smaller( and I have done that too, don’t ask me how), just save it for using with a smaller pan 🙂

Once you are happy with the fit, grease the pan and put the paper in, to ensure that it stays put.

Now for the sides, that is very simple too. Just cut out a long strip, as tall as the pan or a little taller – I normally use slightly taller strips.  You can either use one strip to cover the whole pan or 2 or 3 strips – I go with 3 strips – I find that the easiest way.

Lightly grease the sides of the pan(to hold the paper in place)  and place the strip against the pan as shown below.

And that is a round pan all lined. I find this the easiest method, do share if you guys know any easier ways of lining a round pan. I use another technique to line loaf tins, which I will post the next time I bake a loaf cake/bread.

PS : I am still to reply to the comments on my previous post – will do it later today, wanted to do this post as it has been on my pending list for a while. At least you guys must be thankful I did not bore you with a Wordless Wednesday – but then a lot of you might say that a wordless Wednesday would have been much less a torture than this post 😉

How to make a princess cake

I have been asked this by several people after seeing the cake that I made for my daughter, and I am so delighted to say that it was simpler than I thought. Here is the step by step methodology.

Here is the cake I made.

And here’s what I did.  I found this video on Youtube, which was very comprehensive by itself.

They recommend using 2 8 inch cakes and one cake made in a mixing bowl using cake mixes. Now, I have never used cake mixes, so was not really sure if I wanted to start now.  And I had also picked up a princess cake mould, from a local specialty cake store. It is available on ebay and on Amazon, I think. And if you don’t want to buy, you could always use a glass mixing bowl. If you don’t want to use the mixing bowl, you could just bake 2 more 8 inch cakes and simple shape it to look like a skirt.

Now the next step to decide was what cake to make. I researched and found that for cakes like this, madeira cakes are the best to use. I experimented once and found my cakes turning out rather dry. After a lot of research, I chanced upon this blog –   which has several recommendations to make a moist madeira cake and mine did turn out moist. It was not perfectly leveled, but that was not too difficult to handle. I just leveled it off.

I made one 8 inch cake based on this recipe. I made another 7 inch cake, because the base of my princess mold was 7 inches based on another recipe – simply because I was too lazy to do the calculations to modify the first recipe to suit a 7 inch tin. I did incorporate all the tips that Lindy’s blog has recommended like using glycerine and lining the cake tins. One of the tips, that I can certainly recommend, is to go by the size of tin mentioned in the recipe. Using a different size tin may cause problems. If you do want to use a different size, it is important to scale down/up the ingredients accordingly.

And my final barbie/princess cake was made using the first recipe mentioned. I made all these cakes in advance as these cakes are supposed to get better after a few days. After the cakes were completely cooled down, I wrapped them in 2 layers on cling film and a couple of layers of aluminium foil and stored them. The night before the cake was to be assembled, I took them out, leveled the cakes, cut them out, using a cake leveler, and then wrapped them as mentioned before and popped them into the freezer.

Just before preparing the frosting, I took the cakes out and let them thaw.

Now for the frosting. This was what was giving me nightmares. I had never decorated for a party before. And I was terrified of making a mess. I was also confused between which type of frosting to use. I prefer buttercream as it tastes better, but fondant frosting looks better. Finally, I decided to go with buttercream. I had bought some ready to roll fondant, to experiment with, in case I felt like it.

Buttercream frosting recipe.

There are loads of recipes for buttercream frosting. Most of them use shortening. I was not able to lay my hands on shortening, so decided to go with butter. Here is the recipe I used. If you can get shortening where you are, apparently, it is better.

Ingredients

140g/5oz butter, softened
280g/10oz icing sugar
1-2 tbsp milk
few drops food colouring

Method

1. Beat the butter in a large bowl until soft. Add half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth.
2. Add the remaining icing sugar and one tablespoon of the milk and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in the milk, if necessary, to loosen the mixture.
3. Stir in the food colouring until well combined.

The method of frosting that I used is the one demonstrated in the video. I started with a crumb coat. The one thing I did not do was pop it into the freezer after the crumb coat. My freezer was not big enough. I just left it out for about 0 minutes before applying the next coat. And after the final coat was done, I smoothed it out, as was demonstrated in the video. Mine was not half as smooth – but am sure we can get there with practice. My next dilemma was about what to do next. I found making twirls on the icing was not as easy as she made it look. So I just went ahead and smoothed it all out. And then decided to give fondant a go. So I cut out triangles to look like flounces on the skirt and just layered it around her waist. and decorated with white icing flowers that I found in a supermarket.  And that was it. It still took me around 5 hours in all, to assemble the cake. But it was simpler than I thought. I had planned to pipe decorations on it, but I had no energy left at the end of it.I used fondant to make the top part of the princess’ dress. It was not very neat, but as I said, I was too tired to do more 🙂 I put the fondant dress on her before putting her into the cake.

If you need more inspiration. Do check out these sites. I spent hours on the internet checking out stuff.

http://www.coolest-birthday-cakes.com/barbie-cake.html. Some of the cakes are absolutely out of the world.

And if you don’t want such a big cake – I had lots of guests , so wanted to make sure that everybody gets a piece, you could use a miniature doll and just use on 7 inch cake and shape it like a skirt. There are so many ways of playing around with it 🙂

And do let me know if you do make one 🙂 I think I had as much fun making it as my daughter had on seeing it 🙂

Come join me for tea..

and help yourself to some banana bread 🙂

Don’t worry – it is a low fat one and I am so delighted with it that I have even had a slice for breakfast 🙂 I am normally, never modify cake recipes unless others who have made the cake suggest modifications. This time, however, I took a chance and experiemented. You see, I was keeping away from baking after all the holiday weight I had put on. Yesterday however, in order to keep Poohi entertained, I made a rather rash promise that we would bake a cake – and she ensured that I did not break my promise- try as I might. So if I had to bake, I decided to bake something low-fat and guilt-free( or atleast less guilty).  And here is the recipe in case any of you are interested. I got the recipe from here, but made the following modifications.

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 large over-ripe bananas
  • 1/3 cup plain fat-free yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spoon flour gently into measuring cups and level with a knife. Stir flour, baking soda and salt together in a medium bowl. Put aside. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl and beat at low speed with a mixer until well blended. Add one egg at a time and blend well after each one. Add in mashed banana, yogurt and vanilla extract, beat until blended. Add flour mixture and blend until just moist. Do not over-mix. Spray an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 60-70 minutes (until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean). Remove from pan after 10 minutes or so and cool on a wire rack.