Football and Brownies

It’s 3 p.m. in the afternoon. The outdoors is at a sunny 22° C. I’m snuggled against a 1984 Argos couch in the living room watching England play against Slovenia, hoping that this time it wouldn’t be as painful as it was the last time.

Earlier today , I had tried….tried desperately to cook myself a decent meal of grilled chicken breasts stuffed with mozarella. It wasn’t as successful as I had wanted it to be. Due to lack of string or toothpicks to hold the damn breasts together.

Somehow, this day is not agreeing with me. My room is currently not very different from a blast furnace, which makes it absolutely impossible to work in it. Last night’s party has contributed to very little sleep and hence it is with difficulty that I’m trying to focus on the goal Dafoe just scored for England. But all is not lost. I am looking forward to the grocery store trip I’m planning to conduct in an hour. And also I’m looking forward to downing a few pieces of ‘luxurious’ brownies (shamelessly nicking the name from Tamami), I whipped up early in the morning. Inspired heavily by Fanny’s recipe.

If I start describing how the brownies turned out, it would probably bleed over to two or more posts. All I can say, is that, they’re luxurious indeed. The dark chocolate leaves a heavenly after-taste in your mouth and the amount of sugar is just right, especially for someone like me (who’s compulsively picky about anything sweet). I did modify the recipe according to my taste, of course. My allergy to following recipes word-to-word kicked in, I suppose.

I replaced plain flour with self-rising flour which makes the brownie slightly less dense, but gorgeously chewy nevertheless. The cocoa powder was Green & Black’s 70% and a tablespoon of instant coffee makes all the difference. It transforms the simple brownie into an indulgent and strangely addictive dessert (the word ‘snack’ here would be a complete understatement). Its sticky to the right texture, dark, handsome, chewy, fluffy and unforgiving. I won’t lie to you….this brownie will make you feel seriously guilty.

I’ll stop writing now and make another trip to my refrigerator.

P.S.: – England – 1, Slovenia – 0, Half-time.

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Chocoholics Anonymous, anyone?

 

I’m not a stickler for recipes. In fact, I’m almost allergic to them. And I’ve lost count of the number of times my experiments in the kitchen have ended with disastrous results. And yet, I don’t learn.

I keep twisting a recipe. I keep playing and there are times when I go into creating a dish without any knowledge or planning whatsoever. Are there alarms going off in your head? Don’t worry, all the recipes I’ve put up on the blog are tried and tested. And have been very successful.

Now you know, how I excel at cold desserts and how I steer clear of baking. But recently I’ve been inspired to bake. Blame it on Hana. Damn, that girl can bake!

While I still haven’t had the pleasure of pulling French-Macarons-With-Feet out of the oven, I did successfully produce a sour-cream moistened, dense double-chocolate gastrocity yesterday. Its complete with a layer of ganache and sprinkles of fleur de sel. I’m still in disbelief.

The lower layer, as you can probably guess is plain dark-chocolate brownie. It was meant to be a fluffy crumbful cake initially, but I changed courses…and clothes, considering how I tipped batter all over myself during the first attempt. Creaming unsalted butter (a stick and a half of it, softened) together with two egg yolks and a cup of sugar, was easy enough. Though quite a work-out for my arms – I abstained from using the electric whisk. Aren’t I a saint?

The second step including sifting the flour (a cup and a half), a pinch of cream of tartare, half a teaspoon of baking powder and a half a cup of sinful Dutch process cocoa together, before combining it with the butter mixture. And then in went my cup of lush sour cream. Soury, gorgeous, silky. My pièce de résistance, totally the star of the recipe and blatantly inspired by Nigella Lawson’s chocolate cake.

The batter was left to sit in its bowl, a little clumpy and impatient, while I proceeded to beat the two egg whites into fluffy clouds (soft peaks, please). I plopped the clouds on top of the batter and followed up with fast and determined turns with the balloon whisk, till it was smooth and fell into ribbons. I also added one-third of a cup of boiling water, which keeps the batter workable and the brownie moist. Onto a greased square pan which was about 20 x 20 (I’m using centimeters) and baked for about 20 minutes at 180 °C and another 20 minutes at 150 °C (or till a skewer run through the centre comes out clean…but greasy). Let the cake cool, before icing it with sour-cream chocolate. For the icing, I broke up an entire dark chocolate bar and let it melt in a bain-marie along with a tablespoon of unsalted butter and two tablespoons of muscovado sugar. As soon as everything combines, let the mixture cool before adding (slowly, please) 2 tablespoons of sour-cream that’s all at room-temperature. Spreading evenly on the cake wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be, especially as I was using a butter knife! But I’m sure you’ll have better luck if you own an icing spatula…lucky you.

The cake was finally cut into rectangular pieces after the ganache was cool and rested, decorated with rough curls and fleur de sel, photographed properly and promptly gobbled up by five hungry adults.

Its apparent how chocolate has finally taken over my life. Is there a Chocoholics Anonymous somewhere I can join and does this qualify as substance abuse, I’m not sure?

But yes, I’m officially baking now.

Tart Schmart

I should say this upfront. I’m not a baker. Never have been. Every attempt I’ve made to bake something have always taken disastrous turns. And hence, I steer clear from anything to do that involves mixing eggs, butter, flour and sugar together.

Now that I’ve established this fact, I’m gonna follow up by saying: Whooppee!! I made pie!!

For the last few days, I’ve been ashamed to call myself a blogger…considering that I’ve done nothing but post photographs from my gorgeous *insert orgasmic sound here* vacation in Paris. But, I intend to change that very soon. I’ve drowned myself in more coursework and in learning how to make Parisian Macarons. That’s right. Just when you thought I couldn’t get any cuter.

Over the batches of flat, soggy meringues that came out of my uncontrollable oven, I have wondered whether all French bakers (specializing in macarons) have filthy mouths. Because I sure have developed one, trying to whip up ‘magma-like’ batter.

Its not that my mouth was any un-filthier before, than it is now, but I sure have learnt a few choice words in French.

But with any luck I will succeed…and you will know about it. For now, let the egg whites rest for another day.

My earliest memory of baking is the one when I baked my first cake at the age of 10. A chocolate one too. And it was a disaster.

Given that I don’t have much of a sweet-tooth (not as much as my friends and family), I wanted my cake to taste just right and I doubled the recipe, without doubling the amount of sugar. I still remember that the recipe asked for 220gms of flour and 200gms of sugar. And I put in 200gms of sugar alright, but doubled the flour to 400gms. The cake came out beautifully…out of one of those old aluminum toaster ovens. It was soft, melt-in-your-mouth and was the perfect shade of chocolate. Except that you couldn’t eat it without gagging.

I should have known then, but no…I waited 15 years to finally learn that I’m no baker.

However, cravings have a way of creeping up on you from behind. And then the Universe does everything to make every parameter fall into place. I was greeted by Chocolate & Zucchini when I came back home from the library yesterday. I had umpteen bars of chocolate in the refrigerator (as I always do). I had a full block of unsalted butter, along with a fresh carton of eggs and a can of double cream. And moreover, I also had dessicated coconut that I had bought a few days back — all waiting for me to gather them into a pie!

So I faced the nagging voice at the back of my head that kept murmuring, “You know what happens when you try to bake….”, rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

I’m not trying to be ambitious, so you’ll forgive me for using tiny moulds to make tartlets rather than a full-on pie, aren’t you?

The filling is a dark chocolate ganache (did I just hear someone say, “Playing it safe, bitch?”). And yes, in my eagerness to tuck into the tartlet I burned my tongue on the hot ganache, so, do let it rest to cool, after you’ve filled the tartlets in, and definitely before you plop whipped cream on it (warm ganache = oozy cream for garnish = mess).

Chocolate Espresso Tartlets

To make the crust:

Adopted from Clotilde’s Pâte Sablée recipe

Ingredients:

  • 75gms chilled unsalted butter, diced
  • 75gms sugar
  • 150gms plain flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1-2 tbsp cold milk

Combine the sugar, flour and salt in a mixing bowl. Rub in the butter into the mixture with fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add a tablespoon of milk and blen it in, handling the dough as lightly as possible. The dough should be crumbly but should clump if squeezed in a handful. If not, then add some more milk (teaspoon by teaspoon) and mix in, till it reaches the clumpy stage. Plop a bit of mixture into a greased tartlet mould, and use the back of a spoon or the heels of your hands to press down the dough to make the crust. The dough might feel a bit dry, but that’s normal (at this point, I used quite a bit of milk, so my dough wasn’t as dry as I thought it would be). Cover tightly with film wrap and chill for 30 minutes, or upto a day. The remaining dough (left after you’ve lined as many moulds as you want) can be wrapped tightly in cling film and frozen for later.

With a fork, puncture the base and sides of the chilled crust. The crust will still puff up a bit while baking, but it’ll be fine once it cools down. Alternatively, place ceramic baking balls in it before popping it in the oven.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C (fan-assisted) and bake the tart for 15-20 minutes, till the edges are a nice golden colour. Given that my oven is moody about temperature, I kept a sharp eye on the colour. Cool on a rack.

To make the filling:

Ingredients:

70gms dark chocolate, good quality and chopped into bits (This is enough to fill two tartlets)

80ml double cream

2 tbsp sugar

1/2 teaspoon instant coffee granules

1 tablespoon water, warm

Whipped cream and/or dessicated coconut to garnish

Place the chopped up chocolate in a bowl, stainless steel preferably. Make espresso out of warm water and coffee. Put the cream in a saucepan to heat. At this point mix in the sugar. Heat the mixture till it just begins to boil, but do not let it boil over!

Pour the hot cream mixture over the chocolatee bits and let stand for about minute. Start stirring from the center of the bowl outwards to incorporate the cream and chocolate and mix well till no streaks remain. Stir in the espresso. Pour the ganache into the baked (and cooled) tartlets. Garnish with caramel tuiles, whipped cream or coconut shavings. As you can see….I opted for a smiley face!

Tintin and Cocoa

chocolate

God bless all things chocolate.

There was a time (I’m not going to mention that it was six years back) when one could still find me gobbling up the pages of Tintin and Asterix and washing them down with cold cocoa. It was a time when I thought my curly hair cropped short was the hottest thing ever. It was a time when arguing with my Mother was the boldest thing to do ever. And a time when I used to walk like I was gliding on ice.

Yes…there was a time I used to walk like I was gliding on ice. Don’t ask me why…I have no explanation.

Lately, I’ve been hit by the Tintin bug again. Don’t know why, but I’ve pulled out all the bound up editions of the classic that I had stashed at the back of the book cabinet, with all its yellowing pages with their folded ears, glue prints left by Post-its that were used as book-marks, and the occassional coffee mug print.

I remember what was in those coffee mugs. No coffee, all cocoa…cold and chocolatey. My childhood was spent in believing that drinking chocolate simply had to have a warm milk base…there could be no cocoa without steaming mugs of milk. Its colder cousin was never something I was aware of. Seriously.

I was reluctantly introduced to it in college. At this point, I know many of you are snorting in disbelief. But its true. The laariwala (the “cocoa” cart guy) served up crushed ice dressed in a sickly-sweet green syrup and topped it with chopped cherries. Fauri and I hogged the whole thing down. The she ordered cold cocoa. I looked on in surprise and undivided curiosity when a tall glass of silky chocolate in milk turned up with a garnish of milk chocolate chips. It looked milky and was delicious. I was hooked. And spent the rest of First Year curled up with a mug of cold cocoa and enchanted by a man with weird golden hair and an even weirder pair of trousers.

cocoa

Cold Cocoa with Cayenne

Ingredients:

Four simple things –

  • 1 cup whole milk…chilled
  • 2 tablespoons of Dutch cocoa powder
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper…for a stronger tang make it 1/4 teaspoon
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar (this is optional…if you don’t prefer the natural taste of your cocoa powder)

What to do:

Nothing much really. Throw everything together in a blender and blitz at high speed for a minute (make it a couple of minutes if bits of cocoa remain). I don’t usually seive the mixture, but if its too bitsy strain by all means for a smoother drink.

I wouldn’t mind adding half a shot of white rum to make it an adult cold cocoa!


Truffles

rain

Yep, monsoon’s still here. No more about that.

It is more than a serious problem when you’re still learning how to cook and are allergic to following recipes, at the same time. Its still manageable when either of the above is true. But when both are obvious and you happen to be adamant not to change any of it, its bound to get downright dangerous…..and hopeless.

But no, I’m not adamant or anything. I’m more than willing to actually follow one of the recipes out of one of the many brilliant cookbooks I have. I’m just plain lazy. Every time I start with one, some tiny voice inside me wrecks havoc till I tweak the recipe in some way or the other. And I would rather learn the hard way. The really hard way. Doing what I do is hazhardous. You could end up with burnt pots, singed palms, cut-up fingertips, dish towels on fire and sometimes food without seasoning in it. There have also been times when I’ve had to feel my way through thick smoke just to get to the stove-top.

I’ve heard Aditya declare (for about the millionth time) how he follows a cookbook recipe word for word the first time, and then experiment with it in his own sweet time and come up with something new and different.

Liar. They’re always the same and never any different.

 I once fed cold macaroni tossed with tomatoes and cloves of garlic, all raw, uncooked, mashed up together in a sad brass mortar and pestle. It was horrible. And that’s an understatement. The mortar and pestle led a brassy taste to the tomatoes and along with the strong garlicky twang, not to mention the undercooked pasta that stuck to your teeth, the outcome was so puke-worthy that I was banned from my friends’ kitchens for the next four months. They begged me to learn how to cook knowing what a champion-eater and mess-creator I have been all my life.

At the time, I was using this blog as a showcase for my graphical endeavors and writing about college. Everything changed when I called up my Mother and asked her to guide me through a simple meal of eggplant curry with cut-up sausages! Then came okra and brown rice. That’s right…I couldn’t boil rice to save my life. My mother was too kind to guide me through basics.

Out came the digital camera, out oozed some fatty brainwaves, 18 months later and I’m still struggling to be moderately good at whipping up a decent meal.

This weekend I tried to relive last year’s Diwali truffle-happiness. Recovering from a relapse of typhoid can punch quite a lot of air out of you. But the truffles were worth the effort — they always are. Three sorts, not much work, a whole lot of mess and gastronomical divinity in the end.  I don’t know why I keep putting myself down as a cook….these truffles rocked, you know.

dark chocolate truffles

Dark Chocolate Truffles

What you need:

  • 1 and half cups dark chocolate (70%), chopped into approximately equal sized peices
  • 3 tablespoons of sugar (optional…I like my truffles to be distinctly bitter so I didn’t add any)
  • 1 cup double cream
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper for the Chili Truffles
  • 20ml espresso shot, for the Coffee Truffles
  • 20ml dark (or white) rum, for the Coconut and Rum Truffles
  • 1 cup dessicated coconut
  • Cocoa powder for coating

How-to:

  • Divide the chopped chocolate equally into three glass bowls.
  • Heat the cream till its almost about to boil. At this point, you can add in the sugar, if necessary, and stir to dissolve it in the cream. Take it off the heat and pour equal amounts into each bowl carrying the chocolate.
  • Let the mixtures stand for 60 seconds, before gently stirring them(from center towards the edge) till all the chocolate has melted.
  • Add the cayenne pepper to the first mixture and stir in gently. Add the espresso to the second and rum to the third and gently stir. Cover each bowl with cling film and chill in the freezer for about a couple of hours or till the ganache has set.
  • Set each bowl in an ice-bath(so the ganache doesn’t melt) turn by turn. Use a spoon or a scooper to scoop out the chocolate and roll into truffle balls. I spread cocoa powder and rolled the chili truffles in them to coat. The rum truffles were rolled in dessicated coconut.
  • Don’t forget to eat ’em!

 

truffles

What the fudge…?!?!

terrace_floor

The first droplets of rain in Mumbai, left streaks across the tiled terrace floor, almost washing away the dirt my gardener leaves behind every alternate afternoon. You could hardly call it “rainfall” since the drizzle was nothing compared to what Mumbai usually faces.

We’re all gearing up for the washout due 23rd or 24th of the next month. How lovely.

Meanwhile, I’m getting deliciously absent-minded, day by day.

I released the wrong set of drawings to the wrong consultant yesterday and then made his assistant drive back to the office and collect the right set. Not to mention the madness with which I cursed at myself while he was paying full attention to my instructions. His spectacles almost fell off the edge of his nose, I swear.

I typed a fantastically raunchy text message meant for the Lieutenant and then sent it to his best friend. Don’t ask me how that happened. I’m only thankful that M. is a very understanding guy and wasn’t really scandalized by the message.

I got inspired by the new book on chocolate that I bought and decided to try out the orangette recipe….I know, I know its technically not orange-season in India, but the tangy green ones are out. I just couldn’t help it.

It was destined to get all fucked fudged up really. Sorry Mom.

And hurriedly read through the directions, and instead of letting the peel strips cool in the sugar solution for 6 hours, I strained them out and left them in the open. By the time I came back from office, red ants were yelling out “Thank You Amrita!”

I know, I’m smart.

And if you’re wondering, then no, green peels don’t work as well as orange ones…they’re just not as sweet or easy.

Continue reading “What the fudge…?!?!”

Good Ol’ Chocolate Mousse

mousse1

Fact 1: I’ve never met anyone who does not like chocolate mousse. No one.

(If you don’t like it, leave a comment telling us about it….

if you like it…well then,leave me a comment about that too!!)

Fact 2: Its easily one of the easiest desserts to make which provided maximum satisfaction.

Fact 3: Flavor options are…well, unlimited…since whatever flavor you choose is bound to work.

I, however, prefer the classic chocolate mousse, with nutty or fruity tones.

Intially the idea was to make a white chocolate mousse…but then I remembered, I already had one in the kitty, so decided to do the other “good ‘ol” chocolate Mousse. This one, is loaded with hazelnutty goodness.

What You Need:

250gms of dark chocolate (I used 60% cocoa), chopped in bits

– 100gms Hazelnuts

– 3/4 cup of heavy cream

– 2 egg whites

– 2 tablespoons of sugar (if you need it to be sweeter…I didn’t use it any)

– Whipped cream, white/dark chocolate shavings to garnish

How-To:

Preparing the Hazelnuts

De-shell and roast the hazelnuts in a single layer on a piece of parchment paper at 275 F 15-20 minutes.

– Remove from oven before the nuts brown completely….golden brown is what we want.

– Roll a damp kitchen towel against the nuts and rub the skins off them.

– After the skins come off, roll then dry with paper towels and grind them to fine powder, in a processor.

mousse2

The Mousse

– Halve the amount of cream in two separate bowls.

– Heat one half over a low flame, till bubbles start to appear. Don’t let it boil over.

– Add this cream to the bowl of chopped chocolate and let stand for a minute.

– Whip the egg whites and sugar (if you’re using any), till stiff. An electric beater works perfectly fine unless you’re willing to exercise your arms using a hand-beater.

– Add the egg white foam to the warm chocolate and cream mixture and gently stir centre-out till no white streaks remain.

– Stir in the hazelnut flour into the chocolate. Mix well.

– Whip the remaining cream into soft peaks that hold their shape. Pour the cream into the chocolate mixture and fold in gently.

– Pour in serving glasses/cups and allow it to set in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

– Garnish with whipped cream (a little of the heavy cream whipped to peaks with confectioners’ sugar) and chocolate shavings (both dark and white, in my case), before serving.