Tag Archives: cake

A chocolate frosted peanut butter cake and what is to feel trapped in a time capsule

5 Apr

Some of the best books  grace my book shelf but I have no time to read them. I look at them with guilt and they look back at me with a lot of contempt. They don’t say much, mostly because I don’t give them a chance. I turn away to tend to some of the more ‘urgent’ things that need my attention. My bedside table has some of the lighter reads and some cook books. Nigella’s cookbooks are always at my hand’s reach. I flip through some recipes and read a line of two from the novel who’s name I forget until I close to book to look at the title.

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I am drifting. Again. This happens when I get too busy in my busyness. I read a post written by Saheli called Floating and I knew I was feeling the exact same thing. What’s reassuring is I know its just a phase and it will pass, so I am not despairing.

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Initially I used to fight it but it never helped. Now I just drift along only because I know it will end. There are few things I know make me feel better and one of them is baking.  So I baked a chocolate frosted peanut butter cake. It was a friend’s surprise baby shower. I poured myself into it and even before I prepped for the cake, I hadn’t a shred of doubt that it will be wonderful.

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The pictures are pathetic because they were rushed, but who cares! The cake was fantastic. I didn’t need anybody else to tell me that and I didn’t even have to taste it. I just knew it. There are a few things you should know about the cake before you try it.

– Its barely sweet and that allows the peanut butter taste to shine through.

– It uses no butter. Only oil and the cake is soft as a baby’s bottom.

-The sweetness is from the chocolate frosting which if you avoid, you’d be doing the cake a lot of disservice.

– The recipe has been adapted from here

For the recipe, click on the recipe card below.

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Before I end this post, there is a video I would like to share here. It is a Ted talk by one of my favourite writers – Elizabeth Gilbert of the Eat, Pray, Love fame. She talks about the creative process and of managing our own expectations that we have from our creative selves. It made a lot of sense to me. I watched it twice and each time it felt like she was talking to me. Here you go.

Happy Weekend!

Judging a Masterchef competition + Flourless Chocolate Orange cake

30 Nov

An exciting opportunity came my way when I was asked to be a guest judge for an Italian Masterchef competition. This competition was being hosted by Cucina Italiana in Bahrain. I have always enjoyed Cucina’s food and drinks and this was an opportunity I really looked forward to.

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It was alright being invited to be a judge and all but I was completely ill prepared. Come to think of it, I didn’t really know how I could prepare myself. I ran myself some youtube videos of Masterchef Australia and observed a few judging scenes for the kind of questions to ask. I reached the venue dot on time to meet the participants and to understand the format of the competition.

The participants were to choose from the fresh ingredients provided by Cucina within 10 minutes and prepare a main course in 45 minutes in the restaurant’s kitchen. Most of the contestants, including me have never been inside a commercial kitchen let alone cook in one of them. It did feel daunting to me and I was wondering how the contestants were going to cope with the task.  But the restaurants Head Chef (who was also one of the judges for the evening) gave all the contestants a good brief about how to use the various appliances and some safety guidelines.

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The contestants looked very confident and well prepared. They seemed determined to get past this ‘heat’ to go to the semi finals. I wouldn’t wonder at their eagerness because the grand prizes were that alluring. The prizes included a splendid trophy, a Masterchef apron, 6 months of free cooking classes at Cucina, the winning dish was to be added on the 2014 menu of Cucina Italian and much more.

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It turned to be a lot of fun with the host of evening Peter Lyons (also a judge) at his sarcastic and funny best. He asked all the contestants difficult questions and put them in the spot a lot of times.The kitchen, where the contestants were busy working was being video shot so that the diners, guests and the supporters of the contestants could see them all in action on a big screen display in the dining area. I was thrilled to see the participants preparing different kinds of Italian style dishes which meant sampling and judging was going to be so interesting. The dishes that were being prepared included:

1) Stuffed chicken breast with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella with a side of blanched spinach in  lemon and orange zest, garlic bread etc

2) Baked hammour (fish) and spaghetti Alfredo

3) Pumpkin rissotto

4) Tagliatelle pasta in tomato sauce and minced bacon

photo (3)The judging was to be done on the parameters of presentation, authenticity, balance of flavours, taste and portion size.

The stuffed chicken with sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella won the contest for the day. It was heartening to see the crowd cheer for the winners as the competition drew to a close. As a judge, perhaps I learnt a lot more than the contestants themselves. I appreciate their guts and their wits to be able to draw out a dish of such high calibre in 45 minutes. It is no easy task and I have observed it first hand. It would be interesting to note who goes through to the finals to win the grand prize. I sure hope it is one of the contestants from the qualifying rounds that I judged.

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All this excitement wouldn’t mean anything without something as spectacular- sounding as a flour-less chocolate orange cake. This beautiful and truly beautiful cake has been unjustly languishing in my drafts for a long time. I thought there was no better time to bring it out to celebrate the glory of the culinary arts. Being flour-less renders this cake light and slightly guilt free. But then I shall back track and say that some things in life ought to be outright indulgent. This cake is indulgent from all the wonderful Valrhona French cocoa and baking chocolate it uses. It makes me so so sad that I used the last of them few months back and I can’t seem to find them anywhere in Bahrain. Flour is replaced by almond powder which gives the cake a generous nutty flavour which is oh-so addictive.

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And, I almost forgot to mention that this beautiful, beautiful cake is a creation of my favourite cookbook author – Nigella Lawson. Only she can come up with techniques which sound dodgy— like boiling whole oranges and then pulping it all up to incorporate in the cake. Yet the outcome of such drastic actions is beyond amazing and then you realize that after all it is Nigella’s recipe and it can’t go wrong.

COC5I made this cake for my husband’s birthday in July this year ( and hence the candles in the pictures) and it is a pity that it has seen the light of day only through this post. Well it was destined to be posted with a special event as far as my culinary adventures go. Judging a Masterchef competition is certainly a feather on my culinary cap. I wish to participate in this competition as a participant in the near future to see what it takes to be a Masterchef.

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Thoughts on the Year End, a Wedding Anniversary & a Black Forest Cake

31 Dec

Wow! We are nearing the end now, only to begin something new. This cycle never felt this surreal before.

May be it is an age thing.

I haven’t yet settled into my 30’s . It worries me to see the little changes that are happening every single day that mark a little deterioration. A grey hair, that slowing down of pace, that need to sit down a second after a 30 minute run, that dejection at the discovery that my favourite stores do not have my current dress size, the increasing responsibilities and the inability to relax. 2 years ago I did not feel this way. As 2012 approaches at a neck-break speed, I want to hold on to 2011 a little longer only to realize how futile it is.  Until 2 years ago, I embraced each year with the such furor and excitement that it would have felt a little short of  being annoying.

Yes it is definitely an age thing. 

2012 makes me jittery as there are many things that worry me. I do my best to push them back since I know everything will settle itself the way it does, on its own. I hope it does. Even pray.

2011 was a blessed year for me. It was a year that let me settle in this new country as I found new friends and interests. It offered me the luxury of time to engage with my creative side through writing, blogging, cooking, baking, photography and so much more. I know for a fact that this investment will not go in waste. While I worry about how 2012 is going to treat me, I also feel content in many ways that eluded me for so long. For long, I tried to find my calling but got no answers inspite of much contemplation. But life, in its funny little way, showed me my calling, silently, slowly and without warning. That I understand what my calling is now, is also may be because I am certain age now. I am settling down, my thoughts are settling down, my life is settling down.

So it is an age thing after all. 

Who knew there would be such grace in deterioration!

But as I age, other things in my life only improve; my marriage and my understanding of how to balance everything in life. My hubby and I celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary and it was a quiet affair. No party, no excess of any sort was required. Just us.

We felt thankful about how our life had shaped, that we have each other and we have Mimi. We realized that inspite of  the incredible comfort that we share, we will never take each other for granted. We also reminded ourselves that despite the little ups and downs, we shared a friendship that is true and rare – and that we are safe in this marriage we have built and are building every day.

So now the age thing isn’t so bad. 

The Wedding Anniversary celebration was marked by the cutting of our favourite – The Black Forest Cake. A few hours of toil in the kitchen paid off when it was well received and savored.

Recipe for the Black Forest Cake

Adapted from here

Ingredients

For the chocolate sponge

7 eggs

250g caster sugar

200g plain flour

50g cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract

 For the cherry compote

1/3 cup caster sugar

600g pitted fresh cherries, halved

1 tbs rum

For the cherry sugar syrup

90g caster sugar

¼ cup cherry juice

For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse

½ cup caster sugar

½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned

300g chopped dark chocolate

3 egg yolks

300ml thickened cream

1 tsp vanilla extract

For the mascarpone cream

500g mascarpone

1 tsp vanilla bean paste

2 tbs icing sugar

For the dark chocolate ganache

150ml cream

200g chopped dark chocolate

shaved chocolate – to decorate

fresh cherries- to decorate

Preparation

1. For the chocolate sponge, preheat oven to 160°C . Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.

2. Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.

3. Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks until cake has cooled completely.

4. For the cherry compote, add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the rum and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Strain, reserving liquor.

5.  For the cherry syrup, heat 170ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved cherry juice and compote liquor. Allow to cool.

6. For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, line a baking sheet. In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden. Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated. Immediately pour mixture onto the baking sheet and cool completely. Break praline into pieces. Place into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.

7. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl. Heat 250ml of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir through half of the hot cream into the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened. Strain into a clean bowl. Stir the melted chocolate into the hot custard. Add the vanilla and allow to cool. Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture with the praline, until just combined. Set aside.

9. For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until smooth and slightly thicker in volume.

10. For the chocolate ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.

11. To assemble the cake, slice both cakes into thirds. Place the base of 1 cake onto a serving plate and brush with some of the cherry syrup. Spread over half of the chocolate praline mousse.

12. Place the next layer of cake onto a board, and brush with cherry syrup. Spread over half of the mascarpone cream. Divide the cherries into two parts for two separate layers. Place cherries around the border of the cake, 5mm from its edge and scatter remaining in the middle. Carefully remove layer from the board and place on top of the first layer. Repeat each layering process on the board (you will have 1 spare slice of cake), starting with the praline mousse and ending with the cherries on the mascarpone cream.

13. Place the final layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over a baking tray. Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated. When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake. Decorate with shaved chocolate and  fresh cherries.

This is a perfect special occasion cake and the flavours are simply fantastic. All the layers blend beautifully and each mouthful is like  Christmas in your mouth. So that was how we toasted our marriage and celebrated being together.

But this post wouldn’t quite be complete if I were not to mention that the Black Forest assembling was a tough task since I haven’t yet perfected the art of slicing the cake in threes or twos. As I assembled one layer over the other, it started to tilt on one side because of the irregularity in the slices. I was angry and disappointed about how I ruined so many hours of work by my careless slicing. I went ahead with the final pruning and kept it in the refrigerator for chilling, checking it time and again to see if the layers hadn’t slid down. All of sudden, I just felt I should just let it be. Nobody was judging me and I knew what a sincere effort I had put into making this fabulous cake.  An hour in the chiller and the cake looked perfect ( atleast in my eyes) inspite of its imperfection because it was a labor of love. That was the moment when I had an important insight.

Based on that insight, for the first time in years, I have decided not to make any resolutions for the New Year. This comes from a realization that in order to grow, improve and learn, I will have to let go. I know how difficult it is for me to relinquish control and just let things be.

So 2012 will be the year of ‘Just Being’.

Wishing each one of you a Sparkling New Year, full of joy, luck and prosperity. God Bless!!

Friends, Food and Fun – Stone Fruit Tea Cake

3 Aug

When you move to a new country, the biggest challenge that anybody would face is to build a circle of friends. I found this the most difficult part of settling in a new place. Since the time I remember, I always had a huge group of friends that I could count on. I was always the ” Socializer” like many of my friends called me. I had lots of BFFs (Best friend’s forever). Getting married, didn’t change me in many ways, as being a mother did. Suddenly, the focus of my world became my daughter. Slowly interactions with friends were reduced due the paucity of time. Then country-hopping did not do any favours either.

Today, I have amazing friends on Facebook and twitter, but I still find something amiss in my life. Also the craving to go out and make friends has disappeared too. Too much has changed, too soon. Probably it is an age thing or just a phase in life where I am little cautious before I expose myself emotionally to someone and make friendships. Now I realize the only ones that I can call my BFFs are the ones from school and college. Post that, friendships that I had made have evaporated. They did not stand the test of time. This phase has truly been a revelation where the wheat has been separated from the chaff.

So coming back to friendships in a new place-Friendship is precious to me-  It took me more than a year and a matter of pure chance to be able to meet with some people, whom I can call my friends, here in Bahrain. The very first friend, I met was Namit ( who happens to be my junior from my MBA school); then I met Gayathri ( we have common friends); then Hasina ( whom I met through my blog) and Anamika ( whom I met through her food blog). I meet up with these wonderful people from time to time. That time I must say, laced with good conversations and fabulous food has made wonderful memories.

I do not know what future looks like, in the sense that I might go country hopping again. The thought distresses me slightly even as I write about it. But what I have made sure is, I took a lot of time to build these friendships, so I am going to make the most by spending  quality time with them. Most of my posts about food invariably would have atleast one of them featuring in them. It is cooking/baking for them and my family which makes it worth the while.

So this post is about a certain stone fruit tea cake that I made for one such wonderful afternoon spent with friends- Hasina and Anamika. Both of these young ladies are new mums and fabulous bloggers in their own right. That we all stay at stone’s throw from each other has helped us stay in touch. We met up one lazy afternoon and caught up with the latest in our lives. It is always so good to talk to friends, there is no parallel really. The best part being, we all have children who are so close in age to each other that we can relate to each other’s situation easily.

Now for the recipe, I have been an avid follower of Deeba Rajpal’s blog. I find it fascinating the way she uses fruits in her baking and not to mention her gorgeous photography. One such post on stone fruits in baking caught my eye and I knew I had to try it. The occasion was perfect since it was a tea cake and I was going for a round of tea at Hasina’s place. This recipe is a keeper, in my opinion because the cake by itself is a wonderful one and paired with fruits, it is racing to perfection.  I used stone fruits like cherry, nectarines, peaches and apricots. I am sure plums would be great too. I made some mistakes on the way, which made the whole cake assembly a bit difficult to lift and put on a plate. But I am sure if you follow the recipe to the tee, it would as perfect as you  see on Deeba’s blog.

Recipe for Stone Fruit Tea Cake

from Passionab0utabaking

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbsp butter (for greasing pan)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 110gms unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 125gm sugar powdered
  • 2 eggs
  • Light muscovado sugar for sprinkling over
  • apricots, peaches, cherries, nectarines

Preparation:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a round tart tin with the tbsp of butter.
  2. Run the almond meal, flour, baking powder and salt briefly in a blender to mix
  3. Cream the butter and sugar for 3-4 minutes until light. Add the eggs and beat again.
  4. On low speed, add the flour mix in 3 goes and blend until just mixed. The dough will be soft. You can divide this into 2 and chill one half. Push the other half to line the base of your tart pan/ baking tin
  5. Pit and chop the stone fruit, and scatter evenly over the base lined with dough. Sprinkle generously with sugar if your fruit are sour.
  6. Dollop and roughly spread the remaining dough over the top, spreading roughly with an offset spatula. The dough will even out while baking, leaving pretty gaps for the fruit to peep out. Sprinkle over with muscovado sugar.
  7. Bake at 170C for about 30 minutes. The top will feel firm and set. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before removing from pan.

We, had a good time digging into this tea cake, some delicious cupcakes by Hasina, rounds of tea and juices. Looking forward to many such afternoons of friends, food and fun.
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