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!

White Chocolate and a Tired Chicken

What do I like about chocolate mousse?

Well, the question should really be, “What I don’t like about it?”.

Its chocolate, its as sweet or bitter as you want it to be, it can have any added flavor that you’d want, fruits, nuts, foam, requires far less time to set than ice-cream or semi-freddos (a highly attractive feature to seek for in recipes, when it comes to impatient bums like me), it melts in your mouth, and what not.

So, I tried to choose between a sumptious honey-chicken-prawn-pilaf dinner and a white chocolate mousse, for the sole reason that I didn’t feel like making both….but ultimately ended up doing so, anyway.

This time its a white chocolate mousse…

Ingredients:

100gms white chocolate

– 1 heaped tablespoon of unsalted butter

– 2 egg yolks

– 1 egg white

– 50gms heavy cream

– 4 teaspoons of castor sugar

– vanilla essence (I used 2-3 drops of a really strong one)

How-to:

Melt the chocolate and butter in a bain marie. Take it off the heat after the chocolate’s melted. Let it stand for minute and beat in the egg yolks.

– Lightly whip the cream (lightly…only soft peaks).

– Combine the chocolate and cream well.

– Beat the egg white till it holds its shape, gradually adding the sugar in.

Try the inverted bowl test. The white should be whipped to such a consistency that, if you hold the bowl inverted, it shouldn’t plop out!

I usually hold it over my head…but that’s me.

– Fold on the chocolate-cream mixture into the egg white gently.

– Pour in glasses and chill in the freezer, till set. 2-3 hours should do it.

My First Award

An award?

Me?

For what?

My blog?

I admit, I was a little blank at first. But then, it sank in. And then, it really sank in.

My blog’s been around since February, 2008 – and initially it was about my ridiculously tumultuous college life and all the random photography and graphic design I did. It was quiet sometime before I knew I wanted to blog about food. What I love most about food blogging and food-blog surfing are the stories. Stories that lead up to the meal, or recipe, or eatery, and stories that come after all the food has been eaten.

Lan from Angry Asian Creations passed on this award to me! Ye-eah!

Lan – thanks a ton! I’m glad you like my blog…and my experiments in the kitchen and my photos! Honestly, I get excited whenever a comment from you blinks on my screen!

I wanna pass the love on to blogs and bloggers I follow without fail –

Melissa and Denise over at Twin Tables – Their stories are a delight to read and their food’s always simple and creative!

Amanda over at Konosur – I enjoy her blog ‘coz its just classy and her presentation’s always clean and super-elegant.

Alexa with Artsy-Foodie – OK, now its all artsy alright… 🙂 Her blog’s an inspiration really, her photographs make me hungry and I love the way she makes the most complicated recipe seem simple!

Its almost difficult finding time to cook and try out new recipes, but all of you make it so much more easier! Thanks for all the inspiration!

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……

Cookies and Bandhani

I’ve been obsessed with my mother’s closet since I don’t remember when.

Its weird if you think about it – I’m a full-grown twenty-three (almost twenty-four) year old woman who can cook and housekeep like an expert (at least, by now I can), but I still cannot resist rummaging through my Mum’s dressing table or try on her saris, whenever I get a chance.

I know, I need help.

Anyway, while my dark chocolate & walnut cookies were baking, I pulled out all Ma’s old dupattas. Cottons, silks, chiffons, crepes, lace and what not…she even had one in a ‘fishnetty’ lycra material.

OK.

Most of them have faded and some have huge holes in them and some are torn in half, literally. But what caught my eye was this hot pink bandhani-work dupatta, which was surprisingly intact, kept twisted properly and not the slightest bit faded. The color just popped and said “HI!” to me!

For all who’re wondering what on earth is “bandhani” – bandhani work is a type of tie-dyeing art particular to Gujarat and Rajasthan, India.

As for the cookies – well, they’ve got chocolate, walnuts and honey in them.

What You Need –

1 and a half cups regular, all-purpose flour

– 3/4 cup dark cocoa powder (Dutch is preferable, but any good quality cocoa powder would do)

– Half cup of walnuts, chopped coarsely

– 1 teaspoon salt

– 3/4 tsp baking soda

– 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

– 1 cup confectioners’ sugar

– 3 tablespoons of honey

– 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

– 2 large eggs

How-To:

– Preheat the oven to 375 F.  Prepare cookie sheets.

-Sift the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking soda together.

– Cream the butter with sugar till smooth and fluffy.

– Add the eggs one at a time beating continuously. Add the vanilla essence and honey.

– Add in the dry ingredients an stir to make a creamy batter.

– Add in the chopped walnuts and mix well.

– Spoon out the batter (1 tablespoon for each cookie) onto the sheets leaving enough gap between each lump.

– Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes. Cool the cookies on cooling racks and serve with…uh milk? I prefer vanilla ice-cream though.

My Get-Well Food

Its been a long week. The flu did not worsen like I had thought it would, thankfully. The cold is still giving me a hard time though. The good thing that has come out of all this is, I have had about 16 cups of yellow lentil soup soup with two dozen pieces of mini-naan over the span of the last seven days. No, seriously.

I remember, Amanda’s (from Konosur) comment on the stuffed peppers, about an Indian flat bread or naan recipe. I guess I was waiting for a bout of influenza to finally get off my bum to blog about it.

The naan has Central Asian origins, resembles a pita but softer, in India its a North Indian staple.

Naan (makes one large or 4 bite-sized ones):

Half cup plain white flour

– Half a teaspoon baking powder

– 1 teaspoon of sugar (naan is more sweet than savory)

– A pinch of salt

– 1 tablespoon white oil

– 2 tablespoons of milk

– 1 egg, beaten

– Chopped parsley, or chopped coriander, or sesame seeds or nigella seeds

Pre-heat the oven to maximum heat. Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together. Mix the oil, milk and half the beaten egg well and add this to the flour mixture. Pour this into the center of the flour and knead adding water if necessary to form soft dough. Grease a bowl with a few drops of oil and roll the dough around in it. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let rest in a cool corner for about half an hour. Roll out the dough in an elliptical shape. Stud the surface with the coriander/parsley/nigella seeds/sesame seeds. Brush the top lightly with the remaining egg. Prepare the baking tray and bake for about 10 minutes or till the naan’s puffed up and golden brown. Serve with a hot lentil soup.