Tag Archives: Wedding Anniversary

On being purposeless and a chocolate swiss roll

13 Jan

How is the New year treating everybody? Mine has been quite a confused one. Usually the one to plan and fret about new year resolutions, I decided to take a detour.

I decided that I shall stay purposeless for as long as I can manage.

For someone who is easily distracted and needs a million things to feel entertained, it is a big step. Those who know me, know exactly how difficult this is for someone who is forever busy in her ‘busyness’. So come this new year, I decided to take a break from thinking. And planning. And all the things that stop me from living in the present.

As a planner, I am always in the future state while my present is royally neglected. It is a shame considering there are so many moments that I would have loved to capture but I never even got around knowing them. That is because I am zoning out into the future with my plans. This realization  put me on pursuit of being purposeless. I wanted to experience a state of no-thinking. My early morning to-do lists were torn to shreds in my imagination and I let the day happen to me rather than me taking on the day. For a short while, I must admit I did feel a bit free and also had a chance to notice the beautiful rainbow in the sky from my office window. I also observed how the sunlight played a relay race with the shadows of the clouds on the beach front. Being purposeless felt good. But I also realized I wasn’t a natural at embracing this alien concept.

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Stepping out of my comfort zone and doing things taught be a great deal but relinquishing control by letting go of the planning aspect was difficult. The first few days were quite easy since it was an experiment and I was having fun with it. But after the 3rd or the 4th day, I started to experience a familiar feeling of restlessness. It started with the involuntary movement of my legs under my office desk and reached to a point where every 2 seconds my mind would be pulled by some invisible force and was made to submit itself to the planning of the future.

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I forced my mind back to being blank and to stay so. It was such a pull and tug game that lasted for some hours until I was tired. I closed my eyes for a bit in office and thought about the whole exercise.

I realized that in my efforts of being purposeless I ended up planning my pursuit of being purposeless thereby defeating the very objective.

It felt silly and so far -off from my basic instincts. My instincts asked for me  to plan, have achievable objectives and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. Not doing this, goes against my nature and hence feels like punishment.

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You may ask  – How did this idea of staying purposeless come about?

Well a particular chocolate strawberry Swiss roll is to blame. One of the final items on my culinary bucket list for 2013 was ticked off before the year ended. I planned to blog about it earlier but my purposeless state disallowed me. The month of December was a gruelling one. There was way too many commitments on the personal and professional fronts. I planned relentlessly and met each one of these commitments without caring how quickly I was feeling burnt out. I attempted the last two items (the Swiss roll and the Khandvi) on the same day. Khandvi was just as tricky and I found success only in the second attempt. As for the Swiss roll – The first time round, I finished baking the cake and had kept it aside to cool. But in my haste, I let the tray and the cake fall on the kitchen floor. My heart broke thinking about all the effort that went to waste. But cleaning up the cake crumbs off the floor got me thinking and I felt like I did not have any energy to pull through to make another batch. I felt like giving up altogether.

It was my culinary bucket list and there was no bucket list police out there to get me in case I don’t finish it before the year ended. 

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But I am a Taurus and we don’t give up. I made another batch of cake, frosting et al and assembled the Swiss roll as delicately as I could. Towards the end of it, I was thoroughly spent. I did not want to look at another recipe or go to my oven again. I wanted a break from it all. And the thinking in particular. From here stemmed the whole idea of being and feeling purposeless. It was an experiment that lasted less than a week but I am glad I did it. Maybe it is still not the right time for me be purposeless considering there are so many things I plan to achieve. Perhaps on a endlessly tiring day, I might resolve to feel purposeless again but I don’t see that day coming anytime soon.

Now for the recipe – All those who are familiar with Rachel Khoo would know that her recipes are just as gorgeous and reliable as Nigella’s. I have tried two recipes so far and I loved both of them. This Chocolate Swiss roll recipe is delightful and finds it place in the top 5 recipes of 2013 ( post to follow). The most interesting part is that, it is flourless! I made this around Christmas which also happens to be my wedding anniversary day. This festive cake fits the bill perfectly.

Rolling of the sponge requires some skill but apart from that the log is pretty easy to deal with. Mine was extremely flawed in its appearance but it was compensated by the splendid taste.

When I think about it , I feel , may be it was the end of the year that made me philosophical and prompted me to experiment with my own psyche. Well, whatever it was, it was quite interesting.

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!!

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