Monday, May 28, 2012

Update -- Eggless Chocolate Cake

It was yummy. Everyone loved it -- the frosting set really well and covered up the little burnt portions perfectly.
R wanted to maul the cake, so we had to restrain him before he ended up with chocolate frosting all over his face, or worse, in his mouth !

Friday, May 25, 2012

Bakefest! - Eggless Chocolate Cake - Double layered and frosted!

After a brief hiatus after my eggless strawberry muffins project, a lot of which involved packing and moving, I made this eggless double-layered chocolate cake over the last 2 days for my uncle's birthday.
This is a 2-layer chocolate cake which I covered with whipped cream frosting and decorated with store-bought buttercream frosting.

The cake recipe is adapted from Joy of Baking. Although the recipe calls for 2 cakes to be made on the same day, I split my work and made the two layers on 2 days because I just have that much time on my hands (not!), when either R is not seeking my attention or I have office work to attend to.

I will give the recipe first, and my thoughts later in the post.

Cake Recipe

For 1 layer cake, you will need:

  • All Purpose Flour - 1&1/8 cup 
  • Baking Powder - 1 tsp
  • Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
  • Cocoa Powder - 1/6 cup
  • Butter (at room temperature) - 1/2 cup
  • Sugar - 1cup
  • Chocolate (chopped and room temperature) - 60 grams
  • Salt - 1/8 tsp
  • Vanilla essence - 1 tsp
  • Egg substitution - 1.5 Tablespoons flax seed powder dissolved in 4.5 Tbsp warm water and kept aside for 5 minutes
  • Boiling water - 1/2 cup
  • Milk - 1/2 cup
What you need to do

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius
  • Spray the cake pan with non-stick spray and line it with parchment paper
  • Put the chopped chocolate and cocoa powder in a bowl and add the boiling water to it. Stir till the chocolate melts and it becomes a homogenous mixture
  • In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt
  • In an electric mixer, whisk the butter for about 2-3 minutes till it becomes creamy
  • Gradually add the sugar to the butter and beat with mixer for 5 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure all the mixture is getting beat
  • Add the flax seed mixture to the mixer bowl and combine with the butter-sugar
  • Add the chocolate-cocoa liquid and vanilla essence to the mixer bowl and mix it all together well for 1-2 minutes
  • Add the sifted dry ingredients and the milk to the mixer, alternately, starting with the flour mixture and ending with the flour mixture
  • Give it all a good mixing, so that everything is well incorporated
  • Pour the batter into the readied cake pan
  • Bake in oven for 30 minutes

So, as obvious from the title, you will need to bake 2 such cakes and allow them to cool completely before starting with the frosting.


Frosting Recipe

Whipping cream or heavy cream with a butterfat content of 35%-40% is not widely available in Chennai. I found out, recently, that the brand Rich's is available at a shop called Aura & Co. in Teynampet. But I have not been able to go there and pick it up because of all the new one-way problems on Mount Road, and also because I was not sure when I will be needing it.

A convenient alternative is to use BlueBird Whipped Cream powder, which I had purchased a while back and seemed easier to go through with than making proper butter cream. This is available in all department stores like Nuts N Spices, Big Bazaar, Nilgiris etc. I simply followed the directions on the pack -- which said to dissolve contents of the pack in 90 ml chilled water and to beat it for 3 minutes in an electric mixer and refrigerate. The only other tip that I took away from Joy of Baking was to put my mixer bowl and beaters in the freezer for 15 minutes before whipping. I whipped the cream for about 4-5 minutes because I did not use the maximum speed, and I could see that my cream was somewhere between soft and hard peaks. I refrigerated it for a couple of hours until I took it out to frost. I wanted chocolate frosting, so I added 2-3 Tablespoons of cocoa powder to the whipped cream. But, this does not really give a good chocolaty color to it, so I think next time I will add melted chocolate to it. Instead, I added few drops of Americolor Chocolate color gel.

Because I have never used the original whipping cream, I cannot compare what I made to the same. But it did hold shape properly, given the amount of heat that Chennai goes through in May.

For the decoration part, I used Betty Crocker's Ready to Use Cupcake Frosting, which I found at Amma Naana. The price is quite steep, and I think making buttercream at home would be more satisfactory, but I already had this at home and did not have extra time to make buttercream from scratch.
The frosting is a lovely Buttercup Yellow in color -- but I wanted something different, so I added few drops of Americolor Orange color gel to get a peachish-orange color for decorating.

Assembling the cake

  • Spray a large plate with a non-stick spray and put one of the cake layers on it. I leave it to your judgement to decide which cake should be which layer and whether it should be top-up or bottom-up. 
  • Put a big dollop of the whipped cream frosting on the first layer and spread it out evenly with an offset spatula
  • Place the second layer of cake on top of the frosted first layer and repeat the process
  • Once the top of the cake is reasonably smoothly covered, use the remaining whipped cream to cover the sides of the cake.
  • Put this in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes, if you live in tropical climates like I do. By the time I had finished covering the cake with frosting, it was starting to melt.
  • Take the assembled cake out of the refrigerator and use a pastry bag fitted with whatever tip suits your fancy and filled with the buttercream to decorate it as you like.
This is how my cake finally looked

My thoughts and learnings
  • My cakes weren't perfect. Both of them got burnt slightly at the bottom and the second one was breaking by the time I was assembling the cakes. Anyone have any thoughts on what I could do to improve this? Although, I am blaming my oven for the burn.
  • It was definitely way easier to do things with an electric mixer than with a hand beater. Next post, I will put up photos and descriptions of all the baking stuff that I got from USA.
  • The measuring cups and spoons were a god-send. Otherwise, earlier, I used to rely on my general not-so-great judgement on measurements
  • I bought the Wilton 53-piece supreme cake decorating set. I used the disposable pastry bags and tip 16 for all the decoration and tip 3 for writing the message
  • This was my first time writing and decorating a cake with professional tools and icing. I do hope to improve tremendously
  • I bought a 10-piece silicon bakeware set (also from US). The cake mold that you see in the first photo is one of the 2 round cake pans that this set contains. Usually, silicon bakeware does not require greasing or parchment paper -- but I still went ahead and did both. The cake did come out very easily from the sides and bottom. The parchment paper stuck to some of the burnt areas, so I just took those off along with the paper.
Oh, and at the time of posting this, I still haven't tasted the cake. It is sitting in my refrigerator as I write, waiting for the cutting ceremony this evening. I will post an update about how it tasted.

So, until the next Bakefest posting, peace out!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

HIMYM Season 7 Finale : No Magic there!

*******Spoiler Alert********

Let me start out by saying that I am one of those people who doesn't get what the big deal is about how bad this season was. I am no review snob nor am I knowledgeable on the technical aspects of acting, writing, direction etc. etc. But I have always felt that How I Met Your Mother entertains me. I do not particularly relate to the general storyline or feel that any of the stuff they go through is realistic in any sense. Give me Friends for that any day.

But I had to write about how bad the season finale was. Folks all over the world have been waiting for The Magician's Code to air -- wondering if at least the last episode will redeem everything that happened during this season. You see, as inane as I find HIMYM, I thought this season was not particularly worse. I do however, believer that the finale was a complete disaster!

I have read reviews on how Part 1 was better than Part 2. But I beg to differ -- both of them sucked. 

Part 1 basically dealt with Lily's labor and Marshall's attempt to reach NYC from Atlantic City to be by her side. As it happens in sitcom world, this is obviously a herculean task. Not only does Marshall seem unconvincing as drunk enough to talk Yoda but also his complete inability to do/think anything even after hearing that his wife is in labor was just.... Barney, on the other hand, was the only character who responded to the gravity/emotional connect of the situation by showing a softer, more concerned side of him. Oh, and the motorcycle bit was well done.

In NYC, Ted and Robin's stories to take Lily's mind off the pain were not interesting in the least and if I were in labor, I would have found them doubly irritating.

So, Part 1 just goes by in a blur of random activities carried out by the various characters and my problem with the whole episode was that I did not feel a tug when Marvin Waitfoit Eriksen was surrounded by the gang. I did not feel like I belonged with them. 

All over the place, this episode be

Part 2 was all over the place. The Barney-Quinn arc was introduced very abruptly in the season and it became very serious very fast, highly uncharacteristic of the show and its characters. C'mon, how many times have we been around Ted & Robin or Barney & Robin? What is so awesome about Quinn anyway, other than the fact that she is a stripper! So, Barney takes her on a conciliatory trip to Hawaii, thereby getting caught in a stream of events that gives the episode its name. Barney's proposal was mind-numbingly endless. And did he propose because he found out that she had quit? 
Back in NYC, Robin is asking Ted to go after Victoria because clearly just because she passed all of Ted's basic hygiene factors, she is The One. What follows is random conversation between Ted and Victoria, followed by a random supposed drive into the sunset, briefly interspersed with Ted trying to be a nice guy, and ending with eh-not such a nice guy after all! Bleh!

And don't even get me started on how TV shows portray new parents and their struggles! I am not getting into each and every point of this, but the writers could have at least withheld Lily from downing a Tequila shot while holding a newborn in her arms -- clearly, it is okay for a breastfeeding woman to not even give it a thought!!

The only reason I was excited about this finale was to figure who Barney's bride would be -- and I am super happy that it's Robin. I loved Barney and Robin together -- they just made sense. This entire fast-forward romance with Quinn was probably meant to be a red herring all along. Or maybe not. God knows what random events will take place next season in order to explain the randomness that was The Magician's Code!

Dear R

Dearest R

This is the first in what I think should be a series of letters that I want to write to you. Because you are too small to understand today and because I would like to preserve my thoughts and feelings for you now so that you can share them when you grow older.

My darling R -- today, for the first time in the five months that you have been born, my heart is aching. And do you know why? Because, last night you fell off the bed. :( 

Last night, Grandpa was returning from his US trip. So, I was awake with Grandma to greet him. By the time I got to bed it was 1:30 am and you had been sleeping since 10 pm. Not too long after, I woke up to your gurgled voice -- the time was 3:45 pm and you were fully awake and playing. After feeding you and trying to coax you to go to sleep, I just decided to let you be and drift off to sleep myself. I knew you had rolled over and were playing because I did open my eyes every now and then to see what you were doing. But the next thing I heard was a dull thud and I sprang awake immediately. I knew you had fallen. For a minute, I didn't even know which side you fell off as I searched for you. By this time, of course, you were howling from the shock of taking the fall. Its amazing how I didn't have an ounce of sleep left in my body as I picked you up and consoled you. Poor baby, you cried for 5 minutes and I offered you my tried and tested comfort method -- nursing. You were back to your usual self in 10 minutes and were still not ready to go to sleep. With my energies at the peak and my mind and heart reliving that thud every second, I cuddled you so that we could sleep together. Of course, without any success, I finally put you to sleep in your thooli and slept on the sofa myself for an hour before having to get up for work.

I did not tell your G'pa - G'ma what happened. Because, childish as it is, I did not want to hear their doubts and worries and feel worse than I already was. But I did tell Appa. He was rightly concerned even though he did not blame me. He actually blamed himself because he was not around to help. I still feel like I should tell your grandparents also about what happened - because they are such an intrinsic part of your life and feel as much love and responsibility towards you as Appa and I do. Maybe I will tell them later today. Ask me when you read this, if I did.

It's funny because I was watching Friends only yesterday - The One with the Giant Poking Device - in which Monica bangs poor Ben's head on the ceiling and Ben keeps saying "Monica Bang". In the end, Ross decides to fake-punish Monica for keeping it from him by telling her that Ben was walking funny. It seemed so funny in the episode Pattu, but I don't think I could live with myself if any such thing ever happened to you because of my carelessness. 

I said sorry to you umpteen times today but you just looked at me and grinned. I am writing this to say sorry to you when you are able to understand what I am saying. I am sorry I slept off sweetheart. I am sorry I didn't notice that you were about to fall off. I am sorry to realize that this is just the beginning of many things that I won't be able to protect you from. But, I will always be there for you. If I can, I shall prevent bad things from happening to you. If I am unable to at times, which is what the reality is, I will still hold you and comfort you -- no matter how old you become.

Love always,

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coming back to Blogger!

This blog is intended to be a continuation of my WP blog of the same name. I am finding WP a little cumbersome due to the inability to customize templates, themes etc. unless I self host it.

So, decided to come back to Blogger. If everything I'm using is Google's, then why not my Blog also?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Palace of Illusions ~ Draupadi's take on Mahabharata

Note: This was something I wrote almost 2 years back on my old blog.

I have been thinking of picking up Chitra Banerjee's Palace of Illusions for some time now. Got an opportunity yesterday at Hyderabad airport, while waiting for boarding to be announced. Read it non-stop and have finished it.

The 300-odd page novel is a narration by Draupadi on a somewhat abridged Mahabharata. Of course because she is the narrator, it also includes her childhood in detail, which I'm not sure if it is mentioned in the original.

I have always been fascinated by the Mahabharata as an epic. During childhood, it was definitely one of the most eagerly awaited serials and I can sing the title song even today. Draupadi is one of the key characters in the epic, having said to have played a very important role in bringing about the war at Kurukshetra. So, when I read a review somewhere that the 'Palace of Illusions' gives a perspective of this central figure, I was more than sold on reading it.

There are lots of reviews on other blogs about the books. So, I am not going to do the same here. But I have been thinking of jotting down points on what worked for me and what didn't.

The writing is fairly simple and straightforward - so much so that it is almost as if the characters live in the current world that we live in. The book makes for a quick, easy reading. And, as promised, gives a view on the story through Draupadi's eyes, which may or may not be true, who's to say?

Some of the points that grated on me while reading this book were -

1. How Draupadi's father, King Drupad was shown in a less than a favorable light. Draupadi seems to have acceptance issues with her father and the rest of the family. Somehow, the idea I got after seeing the epic was that of a doting father. The author also makes a small goof-up, when after the Pandavas come back to tell Drupad that all five of them are to marry her and live in the forest etc etc., he (Drupad) asks them how he can allow his only daughter to live like that? Whereas, earlier in the book, we are told of Drupad's various other daughters and how Draupadi could never form any sibling bonds with them.

2. Lack of Arjuna's storyline - Ok, first of all, I did not like that Arjuna was mentioned as 'Arjun' in the entire book whereas everyone else was called Karna, Bheema etc. 'Arjun' just seems so 90s hindi movie name.
Anyway, it is shown that Draupadi is very much ready to fall in love with Arjuna as the swayamvar approaches. However, once it is done and the whole 'You have to marry all 5 of us' is played out, the Arjuna storyline loses steam.
Throughout the book, Draupadi does not once relate her relationship in detail with Arjuna, who was her original suitor. It is mentioned in various places on how Arjuna seemed angry with the arrangement or how Draupadi longed to see the love in his eyes. One would only imagine that she would relate her year of being Arjuna's wife in a little bit more detail.
For the most part of the narration, she keeps talking about Yudhishtir, who is a slightly boring character for most readers. She also talks about Bheem's love for her at various times. However, not once does she talk about any kind of love that Arjuna might have showed her ever or vice-versa.

3. Obsession with Karna - Karna is undoubtedly one of the most popular figures in the Mahabharata, in spite of being associated with Duryodhana.
In the book, Paanchali & Karna have been shown as a couple of star-crossed lovers. Paanchali, for her part, keeps comparing her husbands with what Karna might have been. She keeps doing scenario analysis on 'what-if I hadn't stopped him at the swayamvar...' and so on and so forth. So much so, that after a point I momentarily forgot that this was an already written epic, and kept waiting for some hindi-movie type union sequence between the two!!
I do not know whether Ved Vyasa's Mahabharata talks about any kind of desire between Draupadi and Karna, and even if it does, its probably limited to the swayamvar event and does not become a life long obsession.

Even with all her longing for Arjuna's love, in the end, when she is dead, Paanchali dreams of entering heaven holding Karna's hand and not Arjuna's. This portion was too filmy for me to digest.

4. Tu Tu Main Main - Paanchali's interaction with her mother-in-law Kunti has been portrayed in the book like a typical saas-bahu relationship, and somehow it just comes across as highly pedestrian. I don't believe that ladies like Draupadi & Kunti, who have enough strife in their lives, would actually make it worse by doing one-upmanship with each other in their everyday life. When Kunti visits the Palace of Illusions, Paanchali feels that it is established that she is the mistress of her home and not her mother-in-law. In turn, Kunti also behaves like the proper 70s movie mother-in-law, sans the 'kulta, karamjali' type dialogues.

What I did like about the book was the depiction of the relationship between Krishna & Krishnaa (Draupadi). Their friendship, Krishna's continuous effort to educate Paanchali on the higher purpose of life and Draupadi's realization that of all the people she knew Krishna was the one who truly loved her were well etched. The ending where Krishna is seen to be with Draupadi in the snow filled mountain - tries to give a spiritual touch- but probably should have stuck to the spirituality only in relation to Krishna and not to the floating heavenly characters.

Overall, I felt that Draupadi through the narration, was portrayed as a very uni-dimensional character. The need to show a multi-layered complex heroine was obvious, however in the effort what came out was a self-important woman, who was obsessed with 4-5 key things in life - vengeance, Karna, Krishna's divinity, her mother-in-law's power over her husbands, her Palace of Illusions - may or may not be in that order.

On a lighter note, as I read the book I kept on hearing Naseeruddin Shah's dialogue "Aisi sati ki jai ho" in my head from Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron. I'm sure everyone remembers the disastrous cheer-haran scene in the hilarious movie. Here are some funny dialogues from the scene and also a clip:

1. Shaant, gadadhari Bheem, Shaant
2. Dharamraj, iski jubaan kheench loon ke? (Bheem to Yudi in relation to Dushasan)
3. Draupadi tere akele ki nahi hai. Hum sab shareholder hain.
4. Nahi, Draupadi jaisi Sati nari ko dekhkar maine cheer haran ka idea drop kar diya hai. Jai ho, aisi Sati nari ki jai ho.
5.Nalayak, adharmi, durachari, vamachari, bhrasthachari, bol sorry! Apne sasur ko nahi pehchante? Main hoon Draupadi ka baap, Dhrupad.
6. Yes sab kya ho raha hai? (Dhrithrashtra, aka The Blind King)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Of Parlors and Paranoia!

I recently added my experience at Studio Profile, T Nagar on Chennai Burrp! Am posting it here on my blog for easy reference.


I went to Studio Profile T. Nagar on a Sunday for a pedicure. As they had opened recently, the parlor was fairly empty. There was no waiting time and I was led into an exclusive room which had two of those fancy pedicure chairs. The pedicure was done by a young lady who took care to switch on the massage option in the chair etc. before starting. The chair experience was really nice -- not something I expected in a parlor in Chennai which is not Page 3 or Oryza. But the chair did stop the massaging after a certain duration -- but I think we can live with that. The pedicure itself was also unhurried and relaxing.

So impressed was I by this cushy experience, that I decided to get myself a haircut also while I was there. I don't recall who the hair stylist was but I expected him to give me some consultation. However, he told me (much like my mom) about how not to get a haircut done and was not very excited. He was nice enough and it was refreshing to have a stylist give an honest opinion.

So, I went ahead and got just a trim done. As soon as the trim was over, the power went off (as is the norm in Chennai) and they informed me that they would not be able to blow dry my hair. I asked them if they did not have a generator and was informed that they did but it did not power the dryers. Do you know what the generator was for? For the bright lights and loud techno music!! I even went ahead and asked them that having a setup in this city, they should have amenities to provide for appliance backup... but of course, I realize that the stylists hardly have a say in all that! This is for the management to consider and rectify.

The silly thing was the stylist offered for me to come back in two hours to get my hair blow dried!!! Really? In two hours, one would think that my hair would have dried by itself! Plus, one of the many reasons one goes for a haircut is to get a nice blow dried look at least on that day... not leave the salon with damp, limp hair!! I told the stylist that since I was not getting a proper cut, they need to at least get me a rebate and he dutifully got me the hair cut price for short hair instead of medium. Which, at Rs. 650, was expensive considering it was only a trim. I am going to stick with Toni & Guy for hair cuts from now on.

I hope the management reads this review and makes sure that clients have an uninterrupted experience, especially because power cuts are a part of our life and we need to have substitutes in place.


I am not completely writing the place off, given how parched Chennai is for good parlors. That's one problem I have been facing for the last 3 years since I moved here. Places are just downright expensive, and they are not even fancy.

I mean, the really fancy ones like Oryza or Page 3 charge as much as 3K to 5K for a facial, not something I would want to shell out on a monthly basis. And with facials, I always have this nagging worry about whether they are even using products that are worth that much. I mean, come on, while you are relaxing on that table, how do you know what is being used? (Okay, please don't sue me here for defamation or anything. I am sure they are using good quality, renowned products -- this is just the paranoid me!)

And the not-so-fancy ones like Green Trends or Naturals are also expensive, compared to what I used to pay in Delhi and Mumbai. Oh how I miss Meghna in Green Park !!

When I moved to Mumbai, I used to be a VLCC regular because it was very nearby and I was okay with shelling out money for a branded parlor. Working in BKC/Kalina also gave me access to a super-efficient, super-reasonable parlor in Kalina which was actually meant for students. Eventually, though I also tried out Enrich -- which I found to be just right for me in terms of ambience, rates and efficiency.

The one place that I am really comfortable with in Chennai is Toni & Guy at EA Mall, Royapettah. I have been there only for hair cuts and I have always been satisfied. They are also fairly reasonable, given that they are an international chain and are located inside a mall. They have now also introduced a junior stylist rate for INR 550!

Now, with a window of only a year to spend in Chennai before moving back to Mumbai, maybe I ought to stop my hunt for the perfect parlor -- or may be such a thing as a perfect parlor does not exist!

Oh, how I miss Meghna @ Green Park, Delhi !

Monday, May 7, 2012

Bakefest! - The Beginning : Eggless Strawberry Muffins

Okay, I kept up my enthusiasm over the weekend. In fact, I left from work early on Friday to go shop for some baking tools. And because I think it would be helpful for others to know, I am compiling a list of items I bought along with the place and my comments.

ProductPlacePriceMy Views
Paper muffin linersCurrimbhoys, AdyarINR 170For a pack of 100 standard sized liners
Pastry bagsCurrimbhoys, AdyarINR 180For a pack of 100 medium sized bags
Measuring Cups & SpoonsAmma NaanaINR 75For a set of 4 cups measuring -1, 1/2, 1/3 and 1/4. Spoons measuring 1 Tblsp, 1 Tsp, 1/2 Tsp, 1/4 Tsp
Silicon muffin moldsBig BazaarINR 115For a set of 6 molds

I also bought a box of strawberries because my initial plan was to make strawberry bread. I changed it in the last minute to make these relatively healthy muffins.


To make 17-18 standard size muffins, you will need:

  • All purpose flour - 3 cups

  • White granulated sugar - 3/4 cup

  • Baking Powder - 1.5 tsp

  • Baking Soda - 3/4 tsp

  • Salt - 1/4 tsp

  • Plain yogurt - 1.5 cups

  • Flax seed powder - 1.5 Tbsp

  • Warm water - 4.5 Tbsp

  • Refined Oil - 1/3 cup

  • Vanilla - 3/4 tsp

  • Strawberries - 1.5 cups

What you need to do

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius

  • Line the silicone muffin molds with paper liners

  • Dissolve the flax seed in warm water and let it sit for 5 minutes. It will turn thick and gelatinous

  • Cut the strawberries into small bite size pieces

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients

  • Spoon 1 Tbsp of the dry mixture into the strawberries such that the flour coats the berries

  • In a separate bowl, whisk the yogurt and add the flax seed water into it along with oil and vanilla

  • Add the wet mixture into the dry mixture and mix with a wooden spoon/whisk such that everything combines together. The batter will be thick at this stage.

  • Add the strawberries and give it a final mix

  • Using an ice cream scoop or a ladle, drop equal quantities of batter into each muffin mold

  • Bake the muffins in the oven for 20 minutes at 180.

By the end of the 20 minutes, the muffin will have risen nicely and a toothpick inserted into the center of one will come out clean. Let the muffins cool before you dig in or alternately, I frosted them because I was taking them as dessert for a potluck dinner at my grandma's.

My Notes

  1. This recipe is adapted from Stephanie Jowarski's Joy of Baking. I adapted her Blueberry muffins to suit the berries that I bought.

  2. She uses eggs in her recipe but being a vegetarian, I substitute 1 egg with 1 Tbsp flax seed powder mixed in 3 Tbsp warm water

  3. Cutting the strawberries small and coating them with the dry mixture ensures that they do not sink to the bottom of the batter

  4. I used regular refined cooking oil and homemade yogurt/dahi

  5. Do not over mix the batter - just enough so that everything is combined together

  6. I frosted the muffins using Betty Crocker's Cupcake Frosting which is available in a can. I bought the butter cream flavor from Amma Naana on Chamiers Road. This can comes with 4 decorating tips to use. I have been using this till my Wilton set arrives from USA.

  7. I am a novice at icing -- hence the uneven frosting design on the muffins

  8. I did think that the muffins could have been a little bit more sweeter, not sure by how much though. Maybe the sugar could have been 1.25 cups instead of 3/4 cups.

So, go ahead and try it. Its not a very decadent dessert, more like something you could have for a mid-day snack. I thought it was pretty good, considering this was the first weekend of Bakefest! I am thinking that I should bake something once every fortnight, and so hopefully in the next 15 days all my ordered items from US will also arrive. More on that in the next post!

Till then, happy baking!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Baking Extravaganza!

Okay, so as much as the title of this post may seem as if I am a Baker-Extraordinaire, I am not. Quite the opposite..well maybe not so much.

Before I get into the crux of the matter, let me outline a side of my personality which pleases me and disappoints me at the same time. I am the kind of person who loves (and I mean LOVES) taking up new projects because I am bored by routine. Intrinsically though, I am a person of routine -- I need to take a shower as soon as I get up, I need to leave for work by 8:30, I need to follow the same bedtime rituals -- well, you get the drift.

But, on the other hand, I get bored if I eat the same dish two nights in a row or if I am just drifting along the river of life without an immediate, short-term goal in sight.

So.. that's why I take up things to do. Looking back, I took up the preparation for IIT and MBA in a similar fashion - because they gave me a target to look forward to in the near future. I took up the CFA course two years back for the same reason. However, I have to admit to myself that I don't get into my non-academic projects as seriously as I should. Take, for example, this blog. This would be my ... 4th attempt at serious blogging after leaving my young adult blog more than 3 years back. However, it just doesn't go anywhere. And that upsets me, because I want it to go somewhere. I want this space to become popular, interesting and give me something to look forward to. Ironically, I need to work on it for it to become any one or all of those things.

Cooking, I discovered 4 years back, was more my thing than I would have ever thought. Because, cooking requires skill, attention to detail, imagination and because cooking gives you tangible immediate results. As an extension, baking started interesting me sometime back. I have always been the baker in my family, and let me tell you, that doesn't say anything about me or my family. But it has always been the regular chocolate cake baking for an occasional birthday or anniversary. I have never really moved beyond that and even that has never been perfect.

Of late, once again, baking has started to capture my mind space. I have been reading a lot of the internet sites, watching a lot of baking videos. And it struck me yesterday that THIS could be my new project -- Baking. Not just cakes, but muffins and breads and cupcakes etc. And decorating and frosting... :) I feel like Julie of Julie & Julia taking this up but that movie was really really enjoyable.

So, I am interested enough to write about it here. Now, what I need immediately is to get me some tools.. and I am planning to go after office today to scrounge for some bakeware and measuring cups and spoons. Hopefully, this weekend will see me doing some baking.

What is my short-term goal here ? I want to be one of those awesome moms who bake for their own kid's birthday party or for a picnic. About whom other kids and their moms talk about :) By the time R is ready to go to pre-school, I should be the new baker-on-the block!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Beginning of a Beautiful Relationship

I think the title aptly captures my thoughts and feelings towards R.

You know how people always say that they fell in love with their baby as soon as the nurse/doctor handed them the baby on the delivery table? Ya, I'm not one of them. I was so wiped out after the delivery process that I did not even pay proper attention to my son. I knew that they placed him on my chest immediately, but that's about it.

My next meeting with him was when they brought him for the first feeding. Even then, I was exhausted and just followed the nurse's cues.

Those first couple of days and nights, I was certainly piqued by his presence but I don't think it would qualify as unconditional love. I will chalk it up to the aftermath of delivery, the sudden loss of sleep and the aching body parts. I think somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I thought I would go into the delivery room, get the baby out and be back for a nap in my room. I was strangely irritated when the nurse got the baby for feeding, like I wanted to tell her "Don't you know what I just went through? Do you think I could get a little break here?"

True to what I had heard from everyone, I found the initial days extremely hard. I was overwhelmed by the need that this little tiny baby had for me through the day and night. I was exhausted by the incessant crying in the evenings. I used to dread night time, not knowing how, when and if he will fall asleep. I used to keep an alarm for every two hours to wake up and feed him. I felt betrayed by the weakness in my own body which was not quick in responding to my baby's cries. I had days when I wept while feeding him. I even complained to my husband that life is not fair to women. Why do I only have to be pregnant, deliver and then breastfeed also? Why couldn't God have made it in a way that once the woman delivers, she can relax and the father can take over breast feeding, or whatever it would have been known as?

And true to what I had heard from everyone, it did get better. Two months since he was born, and it's getting better everyday. I don't know when I started enjoying my baby or when I fell in love with him. But, I have realized that it is gradual. Everyday my love for him grows.When I wake up in the morning to his coos and smile at him to say good morning, he smiles back. And my heart melts.

The hour long feeding sessions that I used to dread early on have become 5 - 10 minutes now and I use that time to bond with my beautiful baby. I wonder. does the father feel envious of this exclusivity that I share with the baby? Does he feel insecure in not having such an indispensable part to play, early on?

I now think of him as a little person with his own developing personality. He interacts and plays with everyone at home. He smiles and gurgles during the day. He looks satisfied when I rub lotion on him and dress him up.

Mostly, I feel that he is starting to recognize me. When he is lying surrounded by folks, and I get up and leave the room his eyes follow me. When he is playing with other people, every once in a while, he looks around the room for me and makes eye contact with me as if to say - "Hey, I'm playing with all these people, but you better stick around." And not just because I am the food provider. Everyday that I spend him, I feel that he is falling in love with me too.

Today, I can't recall how exhausted I was - physically and emotionally - two months back. Today, I love him so much that I actually miss while he sleeps in his crib! I guess this is the beginning of what they call - The Joy of Motherhood :)

Mutter Paneer, anyone?

Although this is an over-abused dish and pretty much everyone know how to make it, I find myself using different recipes every time. No drastic changes, but just a little tinge of this over that. And we all know what a lot of difference that makes in cooking.

Last night, I tried another version of it and loved it. Thought I would write it down here for future reference. This is a jain mutter paneer dish -- no onions, no garlic :)

Things you'll need:

Tomatoes - 4, quartered and blanched

Peas - as much as you like

Paneer - as much as you like

Cloves - 5,6

Cinnamon - a stick

Red chillies - 2

Garam Masala - to taste

Jeera Powder - to taste

Milk - Boiled,1 cup

Almonds - 10

Salt and Sugar, to taste

What you need to do:

* Cut and blanch the tomatoes. I did this in the microwave for 2 minutes.

* Add the blanched tomatoes, cloves, cinnamon and red chilli, sugar and almonds to the mixer and grind to a smooth gravy

* Heat oil in a pan and add jeera to it. Once the jeera sizzles, pour the gravy in the pan.

* Add the peas, garam masala and jeera powder to the gravy

* Add salt, to taste

* Add the paneer to the gravy along with the boiled milk. Reduce the flame so that milk does not get curdled

* You can add more sugar at this point, depending on how you like it

* If the gravy is not thick, you can use some cornflour dissolved in milk to thicken it

Notes to myself:

The dish was tasty but spicier than I would have liked. Next time, I will use one red chilli instead of two.

There you go, the evergreen mutter paneer. I had it with hot phulkas :)