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.

Hi, with something sweet

sugar donuts with coffee glaze

I know I know….you can hear a pin drop here. That’s how silent I’ve been for the last month and a half.

But, to justify, I wasn’t well really and until last week it was taking me five minutes flat to walk from one room to the other.

A bad tummy, sky-high fever and heavy doses of antibiotics for fifteen days can do that to me. The good thing that came out of it is that I’m back home to recover and rest…prescribed by the Doctor! Anyway, I’m not allowed street-food (imagine that!) and now I’m strong enough to stand, long enough to deep-fry donuts. Oh, and I’m ready to bite someone…anyone, considering the fact that I’ve been cooped up in the house for the last three weeks!

And Kolkata is currently drowning in its own monsoon. As is Mumbai. Gray mornings, chilly evenings, the steady sound of rain and the occasional thunder rumbling by. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous! No wonder monsoon’s my favorite season. I’m trying not to think of muddy puddles, damp clothes and traffic jam.

It almost feels like winter in a way….I could curl up in a blanket with a mug of hot chocolate. Although winter doesn’t come with the uncontrollable urge to make paper boats and watch them sail away on the larger water puddles, wobbling from one side to the other!

Donuts seemed like nice and sweet things to say “hi” with after all this time. I’ve always found them to be a mood-lifter somehow. I spent 1st January this year munching on one (after rounds of “new year” hugs) smothered in chocolate, from Barista. But then, I have to admit, it never actually crossed my mind to whip up a batch. And even though I’ve been craving them for the last 3-4 weeks…yes, that long…I was a little apprehensive, mostly because the prospect of deep-frying anything makes me nervous. Yes, I’m one of those women who blow up an inch, every time they look at something deep-fried…nothing new there.

The sugar sprinkles make all the difference really

I also whipped up a creamy coffee-glaze to go along with the donuts which, to my mild surprise, turned out nicely crisp on the outside and light and airy inside.

Mild surprise, because I’m famous for not following recipes. Or twisting them somehow or the other. And then end up in a mess most of the time, but that’s another story.

This one I grabbed from Gourmet Magazine. The first batch turned out slightly deflated, so I increase the amount of baking soda and baking powder in the dough for the second batch. And magic. There was none left to photograph. You’ll have to be satisfied with the photos of the “deflated” ones.

The garam masala adds a very earthy tone to the otherwise vanilla-flavored donuts. But too much of it may bitter out and turn too strong. Use with caution and discard if you prefer using just cinnamon and nutmeg.

Donuts

Recipe adapted (and tweaked) from Gourmet magazine

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala (if garam masala’s too strong for your taste, use a teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg)
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 6 tablespoons yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, to deep-fry (I used groundnut)
How-to:
  • Cream the butter with sugar till soft and fluffy. Add the egg and beat in well. Stir in the vanilla extract.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, garam masala (or cinnamon and nutmeg) together.
  • Add the flour mixture and yogurt alternatively, into the butter-sugar mixture to form the dough. A sticky, but workable dough.
  • Take the dough out on a well-floured work surface and knead it till it just comes together. Roll it out to a 1/3 inch thickness.
  • Cut the donut shapes out with either a donut cutter or just a sharp-edged bowl and a bottlecap.
  • Heat the oil in a deep-bottomed pan or skillet till it reaches a temperature of 375 degree F.
  • Fry the donuts in batches of 6 or 7, flipping them once, till golden brown. The first side takes about a minute and the second about 30-45 seconds. Be careful to maintain the temperature. Too hot and the donuts will come out well-browned!
  • Take them out and drain the excess oil.
  • Dredge them through icing sugar or add any glaze/icing of your choice. Chocolate, coffee-glaze, jam works well.
The doughnuts (unglazed/un-dredged) can be reheated on a baking sheet in a preheated 250°F oven 10 to 15 minutes.
The coffee glaze was a no-brainer really. Just a 30 ml espresso shot stirred well into 200 ml of sweetened condensed milk.

Disaster and dessert later

Ok, I’m done.

No, really. I’m close to giving up. Learning how to cook, I mean.

(And yeah, I’m still learning…I haven’t baked any cinnamon rolls yet, or barbequed chicken or anything….)

A heated up kitchen, the smell of fish defrosting, one huge kitchen knife and a fork.

I spent quite a significant part of Friday evening trying to slice fish evenly, to make fish chiplets. And ended up at my wits’ end and hurling profanity at the poor fillet.

And I only learnt to boil water a little more than a year back. I mean, c’mawn!

Remember the Ghol fillets I got last week, and I had kept one of those aside to make cakes? Well, I got it out and behaved like myself, that is, I got bored to wait around letting it defrost. I dunked it in simmering water till it was workable….or so I thought it would be. Ignorant and a sad lazy-ass, that’s what I am. Armed with a knife too dull and a flimsy fork, I set on cutting thin finger-like pieces from the monster of a fillet. Why does it have to be so damn big!

By the end of it, profanities aside, I slumped on the couch drenched in sweat and fishy water and made up my mind to forget all about cooking, food, recipes and all the stupid hoopla I’ve been doing since last year over them.

A little while, notched up air-conditioning and a few scenes from Charlie’s Angels later, I was reluctantly ready to go back to frying the damn chiplets. I’m decidedly not sharing the recipe with you, because its beyond worse and a total mood-kill. I tried salvaging the rest of my Friday by eating panna cotta.

OK, I have to confess – I’m not a big fan of panna cotta. Mostly because I’m not comfortable with gelatin. I get this weird feeling every time I have to use it in some jelly or panna cotta recipe, that I’m taking a shortcut. Shortcut from what, don’t ask. Its like you add gelatin and it sets. No technique, not much physical effort, no timing or rules, like its a magic ingredient.

White Chocolate and Mint Panna Cotta

I still prefer the dark-chocolate and mint combination. Always refreshing and surprising every time. White-chocolate has never been my style, although change is good.

Continue reading “Disaster and dessert later”

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.

Beating the Heat

With kalboishakhi and a luscious Espresso Slushy.

Kolkata has always seen sweaty, sunny hot summers. This year was much too hot for anybody to handle though. Going out  meant groaning and complaining while getting dressed. I barely left the house (on my four-day trip home), except for the ocassional dinner invitations.

Luckily enough, the kalboishakhi hit us just one day before my flight back to Mumbai!

And the city cooled down in ten minutes flat. Ten minutes.

Kalboishakhi is technically nor’westers, the wind that ushers in monsoon in India.

Its quick, super-destructive, cools like a chilly blizzard and blows with a vengeance.

Needless to say, we welcome it like an old friend really. The storm had almost become just a memory, considering the fact that I hadn’t experienced it in all the five years of staying away from home. This year the memory was refreshed! Of my Mother and the maid running around the penthouse trying to get to all the French windows in time, before the violent wind knocked the trinkets off their shelves and the paintings off the walls! Of my Dad chasing flyaway newspapers and of me and my brother standing in the balcony with our eyes closed (the dust blinds you) and arms wide-stretched hoping we’d get blown away!

The idea of getting blown away has always been rib-tickling!

This year, instead of doing a routine stand in the balcony I ran around along with my Mother, bolting the windows…

One glance through the window told me that Monsoon had arrived.

A couple of days prior to the storm, the sweltering heat literally forced me to bring out the coffee grinder and a handful of old coffee beans to whip up a slushy. The old beans, though old, did a fine job instead of instant or regular coffee powder. I could have gone for ice-cream I know, but I’m still one of the unfortunate ones who’re still confused about which ice-cream maker to buy (I’ve been saving up, by the way). Any suggestions???

Anyway, didn’t feel like undertaking heavy physical work beating up ice-crystals, so I let the old processor do my dirty job.

Ingredients:

– 2 tablespoons of coffee beans, ground to granules…or espresso mix or instant coffee powder does just as well!

– Half a cup of sugar

– One and a half cups of milk

– 1 tablespoon of cornstarch

How-To:

– Dissolve the cornstarch in half a cup of cold milk avoiding lumps and set aside for a couple of minutes.

– Add to the rest of the milk (1 cup). Add sugar and simmer on low heat, till the sugar dissolves.

– Take 1 tablespoon of the warm sweetened milk and add to the coffee powder in a cup and beat vigorously, till the mixture turns light brown in color and becomes creamy. This step takes a sincere amount of hard work and makes the slushy pop wth flavor.

– Add this to the heating milk and stir till the custard thickens and is able to coat the back of a spoon without dripping off.

– Take it off the heat and cool in an ice-bath for 10-15 minutes.

– Pour in a shallow freeze proof container and freeze for an hour or till the edges are frozen and icy.

– At this point if you churn this mixture in an ice-cream machine, you would get…well, uh, ice-cream…so go ahead and do it!

– Or you could churn it in the mixer or food processor. Pour it back into the shallow container and freeze for 2-3 hours and you’re done.

– Serve in a tall glass topped with softly whipped creamand hot chocolate!

(I, personally am off cream and chocolate for a little while, so apologies for the extremely boring photograph…)