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.

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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!

The Weirdest Diwali…

Happy Diwali !!!

Well, belated, at least.

Now, this is another festival Indians go crazy about.

Fire crackers, sweets, gifts (oh yeah!), dry fruits, rangoli, new clothes (yet again!) and more sweets! Plus, Bengalis have their Kali Puja the very next day. So we just have to let go of watching our blood sugar levels for the two days.

It’ll be difficult for anyone to find a town, city, suburb or countryside free of noise, colors, light, fumes from the fireworks or plates and plates of badam burfi piled high.

Indians don’t celebrate with food – they celebrate food itself.

Every festival in India is always up for a million dollops of pure ghee, barrels of molasses, milk by the gallons, saffron by the fistfuls, nuts and fruits by the kilos. Some of the concoctions melt in your mouth, some fill you up with the first serving, some you get addicted to, some taste strange, some reminds you of something ancient and historical, some burst with flavor, others are subtly strong – but all of them make your mouth water, frankly.

This year was slightly different for me. Well OK, a lot different.

Firstly, it rained cats and dogs day before yesterday, which was a mood-killer. The dampness not only affects the performance of the crackers (obviously), but it dampened all our spirits. The fireworks industry in India is massive. And for a day the dealers sat with their hands holding up their heads!

Secondly, I cut down on the amount of crackers.

Well, because after 20 years of experiencing fascination and borderline obsession with fireworks, I got bored this year…much to the surprise and shock of my family and friends.

Thirdly, because I made sweets. And not the traditional burfi or kheer or halwa. But, I made truffles.

Yes, you read that right. Truffles.

Gorgeous dark chocolatey, walnutty ones.

All for a mid-morning coffee snack! And for two very special gift-packages. Recipes are right at the end of this post.

Evening was spent lighting lamps and diyas all throughout the house. And the rest of it was spent inhaling the fumes of burning nitrates and carbonates!

Anyway, back to the aforementioned truffles. I’ve been obsessed with them since……well, since Sunday. That’s when we were gifted this gorgeous box of six sinfully chocolicious rum and brandy truffles! Too bad, none was left to photograph. So, I made some of my own with walnuts, considering the fact that we have a whole kilo of walnuts leftover from when I made cookies a week back.

Chocolate Truffles rolled in Walnuts:

– 250gms of dark chocolate (I used one with 60% cocoa content)

– 150ml of heavy cream

– Walnuts, roasted and chopped coarsely

Chop up the chocolate in shards and chunks and put all of it in a bowl. Heat the cream till it reaches its boiling point. Be careful not to let the cream boil over, at this point. Pour it over the chopped chocolate and let stand for a minute. With a whisk or a wooden spoon start stirring the cream-chocolate mixture, from the center towards the sides of the bowl. Mix thoroughly till all the chocolate has melted. We don’t want any streaks of cream either. What you have now, is chocolate ganache. Pour in a shallow bowl/tin lined with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours or till a tablespoon of it can be rolled into a ball.

After the ganache has set, spread the chopped walnuts on a plate. With a teaspoon (or one of those rare melon scoopers, if you have any) scoop out some and start rolling into a ball. The consistency of the chocolate at this point should be such, so it doesn’t stick to your palms much. Roll the balls in the chopped walnuts till they’re coated evenly and pop all of ’em into the freezer again for about an hour before trying any.

Walnut Rock Truffles with extra crunch!

– 125gms of dark chocolate

– Half a cup of roasted walnuts, chopped

– 6 tablespoons of granulated white sugar

– 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter

– 1 egg white

– 2-3 drops of vanilla essence

Chop the chocolate. Add butter to it and melt on a double-boiler. Meanwhile, combine the walnuts and sugar in a bowl. Start adding the egg white to the mixture slowly to make a dough. You won’t be needing all of the egg, since we want the “dough” to be sticky and disintegrated. Take the chocolate off the heat and add the vanilla essence. Now, my essence was too strong for my taste, thats why I only used a few drops. Go ahead and add a few drops more, if yours is milder. Add this melted chocolate to the “dough” and mix well. Pour (or spoon, rather) it onto a plate lined with aluminum foil and chill in the freezer for 2-3 hours or till you can cut it into pieces.

The extra chocolate shards and curls that were leftover…I just added ’em to my coffee. 🙂

All in all, this year Diwali, was kinda weird……