2016 – Revisiting the Core…

One of my biggest regrets has been that while I started Ovenderful as a baking based blog,
I didn’t really carry it through. Despite the fact that I love writing and baking both, it seems like somewhere down the line I forgot to take out time to combine them. Priorities shifted to some extent and some things became more important than the rest.

But then revisiting your core is important because without that everything else that was created around or above it becomes meaningless. So 2016 is about revisiting the core –that which has remained strong despite the layers getting added on top. The beauty of the core is understated and downplayed, quintessential and versatile.

So here’s to reaching inside oneself in 2016 with a sense of promise and excitement, andWholewheat Cheese Crackers uncovering small and yet powerful Ovenderful  stories to share !

And since we are talking about core, a basic recipe of the Wholewheat cheese sticks that I kind of turned into cheese crackers to be used as the core of a canapé . The topping can be of your choice.  I wanted to use a freshly baked cheese cracker for the base because the intense taste of cheese and the spice mix are a perfect base instead of the store bought bland biscuits, which tend to shift the focus away from the base and onto the topping ! I wanted the flavours in the base cracker to be predominant rather than the toppings.

Recipe –

Wholewheat Cheese Crackers

130 g wholewheat flour , 143 g shredded cheese, 87 g butter, Salt as per your preference, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp basil, 1 tsp paprika powder, 60 ml water for mixing.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the flour, pepper, salt, grated cheese and butter in a bowl and mix until well combined. Add water a little bit at a time to make a very stiff dough.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough and cut the crackers out using a cookie cutter. Arrange the pieces on the baking sheet. Bake at 180 degrees C for 10 minutes or until browned.


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Masterchef Monday Post – For Home Bakers Guild

When I got the message from KP Balakumar, founder of the Home Bakers Guild ( Facebook group with over 35,000 home bakers ) inviting me to be a part of ‪#‎Masterchef‬‪ #‎Mondays‬ amidst such talented and celebrated bakers, I was extremely excited. It was a wonderful opportunity to share my baking journey…so here is the post I shared and 2 gorgeous recipes that you must try out !

So here goes…10275948_10152789898016124_3241887058774032015_n..My name is Simran, unlike most traditional Sikh business families where culinary skills are a prized quality, things were different in my home. The moment I went into the kitchen, my mother would tell me to go and study, and that there was enough time to learn this later. My mother baked on special occasions and I remember that she created her own version of a marble cake because my father wasn’t fond of chocolate and the rest of us were-My childhood memories of her classic and simple baking have stayed with me.

Born and brought up in Calcutta, savoury bakes from an old-world bakery called Nahoums, New Market were my favourite. I moved to Goa in 2001, for my MBA in HR and while I don’t have a sweet tooth, I noticed how my friends would drool over the Goan bakes in the quaint bakeries in Panjim. These experiences should have sown the seed of baking, but honestly, I didn’t even know how to cook till I started staying alone in Mumbai in 2007!

It was finally in end of 2010-early 2011 that I started baking for my husband who had grown up loving the cakes my mother-in-law made. I read online, borrowed some old books from my mother and finally purchased my first oven. As I started off with my baking experiences, since I enjoyed writing I began a baking blog Ovenderful to chronicle these. My desire to learn as much as I could by myself led me to Search Years, an NGO in Gurgaon which was looking to start vocational training courses. I volunteered to take weekly baking classes for 12 girls from nearby villages. That’s where I learnt to bake with limited resources– no OTGs or electricity in village homes meant using a cooker to bake and no money for eggs meant trying out alternatives. I also realized that no matter how big or small Ovenderful becomes, it has to have a soul that connects to my own sense of community service always.

For me, that soul lay in helping the severely ill-treated & abandoned animals – I saw how as human beings we use power to cause pain to the voiceless and how a few rare people struggled against financial odds to reduce this suffering every moment. When an NGO – Indigree Angels Trust asked me to help raise funds through my bakes, I was as nervous as can be – For the first time in my life, I actually priced what I baked and discovered the thrill of being told that it had all got sold out within the first couple of hours.

Soon after, we shifted to Bangalore and I was expecting my first baby in 2012. I continued in my full time HR consulting role, but pregnancy and being alone in Bangalore made me want to do something more worthwhile with my time while at home. I guess when one is in turmoil, one seeks out one’s own soul for relief and comfDSC_0019ort So I reached out an old friend who runs the Help & Heal Animal Trust offering to do a bake sale, for her when I was 6 months pregnant since she was caring for 34 abandoned, old and forgotten animals who merely wanted some dignity in the last years of their life. That bake sale is my annual gift to her in a small way – I do it each year, since it holds a special place in my heart; we adopted our first orphaned Indie dog from her. I’ve been asked often -what it is about fundraiser baking that attracts me to it again and again.

The only answer I have is that Ovenderful is an extension of me and I want it to represent what I believe in – doing what gives one a sense of pride against what gives a sense of power….

Last year (2013) many things happened which helped me take the actual plunge – My son turned a year old and I felt the need to be able to reinvent myself.My job was great but I didn’t feel the kind of drive that I used to. And a close friend asked me to undertake her Diwali order! I knew at a subconscious level that I was ready – This November I complete one year of Ovenderful becoming a home baking enterprise and I hope to continue to make it more inclusive than bigger.

Here’s a little snapshot of what the “mores” and the “lesses” for me have been on the 1st anniversary of Ovenderful.

LESS –
Made less money than ever in my entire working career
Got less sleep than when my son was a newborn baby
Have less time for myself than I did when I travelled for work
Have less worries on how to remain energized each day

MORE –
Made more friends who felt I could be paid for what I bake!
Got more opportunities to challenge my ideas each day
Met more kind souls who understood the challenges of a new venture
Have more exciting ways to spend the next day when I wake up

There are 2 recipes that I am sharing today, both of which are close to my heart siDSC_0006nce the first, Cherry & Almond Clafouti, a traditional French flan dessert which represents classic and rustic bakes that I specialize in and the second, Orange Pistachio Semolina cake, using an alternative flour with one of my favourite fruits and is eggless.

Cherry & Almond Clafouti ( derived from Manila Spoon)
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups white sugar
1 ½ cups milk
5 eggs
¾ teaspoon Vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon Almond extractDSC_0013
500 grams fresh chopped cherries (with the pits removed)
3/4 cup roughly chopped almonds
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius.

Whisk the flour, sugar and salt in one bowl. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then set aside. Add the vanilla and almond extracts to the milk. Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients at once and quickly whisk to avoid lumps. Add this mixture to the beaten eggs and beat till the batter is smooth.
Place the cherries in the bottom of a 12-inch round glass pie or flan plate. Sprinkle the almonds over them. Pour the egg mixture over this.
Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until the edges are set but the center is still slightly soft. Cool to room temperature. You can have it warm or cold, but I prefer it warm.

Orange Pistachio Semolina Cake ( eggless, butterless) ( derived from Ambrosia)
2 cups Semolina
1 cup sugar10614170_609701685810819_1823905017390018263_n
1 cup curd
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup fresh Orange juice
2-3 spoons of orange marmalade
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Orange zest

Method-
Roast semolina on low flame till a pleasant aroma emanates and it begins to change colour. Keep it to get cold. Beat curd till smooth. Add sugar, orange juice and zest.
Add semolina to wet ingredients and mix well. Keep it for half an hour. The semolina grains will become soft and t he mixture will thicken a bit.
Grease, line and dust a 9 inch rou nd cake tin. Pre heat the oven at 180 degrees C for 15 minutes. Add baking soda, baking powder and salt to the mixture an 10603318_609701612477493_5262763265979792954_nd mix well.
Pour the batter in the cake tin, top it with some dry roasted pistachio ( chopped) and bake for 35-40 minutes till the cake shrinks from the sides, the top becomes golden and skewer inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven after ten minutes. Invert on the rack and remove the lining carefully.

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A collection of classic recipes from Mom’s oven – Happy Mother’s Day !

Kueh Sarlat

Mdm Tay Ah-Chiang’s Glutinous rice cake with custard topping (Kueh Sarlat) 

Coconut milk: 1.6kg grated white coconut 1 ½ tsp salt 1 tbs caster sugar 1) Using a piece of 10275948_10152789898016124_3241887058774032015_nmuslin cloth, squeeze grated coconut to obtain approximately 625ml of No 1 milk. Set aside 455ml for custard topping. 2) Into the remaining 170ml, add salt and sugar and stir till dissolved. Set aside. 3) Add 340ml of water into the grated coconut. Squeeze for No.2 milk – about 225ml.

Custard topping: 1 tbs flour 1 tbs corn flour 10 pandan (screwpine) leaves, pounded into a fine pulp 370g coarse sugar 10 eggs lightly beaten 1 tsp green food colour (optional) 1. Mix 4 tbs from the 455 ml of No 1 milk with the two flours till smooth. 2. Add the rest of the milk to the pounded pandan leaves. Mix well and squeeze through a fine muslin cloth. Add in the flour mixture and stir till smooth. 3. Cook the sugar and beaten eggs in a heavy bottom pan over a very small fire. Stir constantly till sugar dissolves. Remove from heat. Add in milk-flour mixture and food colouring. Stir well and aside.

Glutinous rice: 625g of glutinous rice, washed and soaked overnight. 6 pandan leaves, tied into a knot. 1. Drain and steam the rice with pandan leaves over rapidly boiling water for 15 mins. Make sure to poke steam holes in the rice before steaming. 2. Remove glutinous rice to a saucepan and pour in the 225 ml No 2 milk and mix well. Cover for 5 minutes. 3. Steam the rice for another 7 minutes and mix well with the salted No 1 milk (455ml). Steam another 5 minutes. 4. Pour the steamed rice into a 12 inch round pan. Press down firmly with banana leaf or a piece of plastic cling wrap. 5. Steam tray of glutinous rice over boiling water for 15 minutes. 6. Reheat egg mixture (1-2 minutes), stirring all the time. Pour it over the glutinous rice, cover and steam at medium heat for about 15-18 minutes or till the mixture changes colour and sets. (It kinda ridges at the edges.) 7. Reduce heat to very low and continue to steam for another 45 minutes or till a toothpick comes out clean. Remove to rack and cool completely before cutting.

Yes it is a lot of work doing this from scratch but you can replace all the No 1 coconut milk with coconut cream and No 2 milk with coconut milk. And the custard topping certainly can be made from custard powder and essence of pandan leaves. No one has to know. Ahem.

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Mrs Dolly Singh’s Carrot Cake

Ingredients:
1 Cup Flour (Maida)
1 Teaspoon baking powder
3/4 Cup Oil (Sunflower preferred)
2 Eggs
1/2 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Carrot Halwa
– 250 g Grated Carrot
– 1/2 Kg milk
– 2 Tablespoons sugar
Cook carrot and milk till dry, add sugar and cook till mixed

For the cake mix:
Beat the oil and sugar till creamy. Add eggs and mix well. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and mix till smooth. Mix in the Carrot Halwa.
Oil the cake tin. Sprinkle a little maida and spread it in the tin. Take out the extra maida. Pour in the mix

Preheat the oven for 10 min. Bake at 160 degrees for 40 min. Check the centre and if still not ready, bake for another 10 min.

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Goan Batkh

Mrs  Benedita Roy’S  GOAN  BATKH 
 
INGREDIENTS:
One cup grated coconut ( only the white part )
One cup sugar
Three eggs ( separated )
Half cup sooji
Half tea spoon elaichi powder
Raisins ( optional )

Short crust pastry ( optional ) 

Method:
Dry roast coconut till semi dry .
Heat the sugar with a little water and cook till sugar melts .
Add the roasted coconut to the sugar and cook for 5 to 7 minutes till it thickens a bit .
Cool the mix and add sooji and elaichi .
Mix in lightly beaten egg yolks .
Stiffly whip the three remaining egg whites and gently fold into the coconut mix.
In a greased tin either line with a thin layer of short crust pastry or a double , well buttered baking sheet .
Tip the coconut mix into the base and even out .
The top can be covered with either a lattice of short crust pastry strips or a  sprinkling of sugar .
Bake in a preheated (200 degrees Celsius ) oven for 25-30 mins – reduced to about 180 degrees while baking – or till a skewer comes out clean .

 

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Trufle Torte

Mrs Anu Multani’s Truffle Torte with Chocolate Sauce

Ingredients for the truffle-

Sugar-1 cup

Unsalted butter-1\4 cup (if using salted butter, then do not add salt to the flour)

Egg yolks- 2

Vanilla ess-1 teaspoon

Cocoa powder-2 tablespoons

Boiling hot water-1\2 cup

Flour-1 and 1\2 cups

Baking powder- 1 and 1\4 teaspoon

Baking soda-1/4 teaspoon

Salt- 1/4 teaspoon. Milk- 3/4 cup.

Egg whites(beaten to form stiff peaks)-2

A 10 inch baking mould( greased and floured well)

Method-

1. Beat the egg yolks, sugar, butter and vanilla essence till light and fluffy.

2. Add the cocoa powder to the boiling hot water, after taking it off the gas, till well blended and let it cool. Add this cocoa mix to the egg yolk mix and beat till blended.

3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together.

4. Add the flour and milk alternately, to the cocoa-egg mix, beating at low speed, till all flour and milk is used up.

5. Pour this cake mix in the prepared mould and bake in preheated oven at 150 degrees C for 15 mins or till a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in tin for a few mins, then unmould and cool. Slice it horizontally and keep aside.

Ingredients for the Chocolate Sauce-

Milk- 1 litre

Sugar- 3\4cup or to taste( when you chill the dessert, the sweetness always reduces, so do cater for that)

Egg(small)- 1 (well beaten)

Fresh cream- 1 small cup(well blended)

Vanilla essence-1 teaspoon

Corn flour-2 slightly heaped teaspoons

Cocoa powder-2 tablespoons slightly heaped

Cold milk-1\2 cup

Walnuts-1 small cup(chopped coarsely)

Method-

1.Add the sugar to the milk and bring to the boil, stirring off and on till sugar dissolves.

2.In a bowl, blend well the beaten egg, corn flour, cocoa powder and as much of the cold milk as required to make a smooth mix of flowing consistency. You may like to strain this mix if lumps form.

3.Switch off the gas after the milk boils, and very slowly add the above cocoa-egg mix in a thin stream to the hot boiled milk, stirring constantly so as not to form lumps- just as you make custard. When all the mix has been used up, return this sauce to heat and cook over low to medium heat, till it starts coating the back of the stirrer. It takes a few mins!

4.Cool well. Add vanilla essence and fresh cream to this sauce. Blend well.

5.In a serving dish, place the lower half of the cake, sprinkle half the walnuts and pour half the chocolate sauce on it. Place the other half of cake on this, sprinkle the remaining walnuts on it, top it up with remaining sauce.

6.Chill well and serve.

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Baked goodness

Mrs Reena Oberoi’s Tricoloured Baked Dish

Ingredients:

2 cups boiled and mashed potatoes

2 cups paneer mashed

2 cups boiled and mashed green peas

1 finely chopped onion

salt to taste

1/2 tsp black pepper pow.

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

2 green chilli paste

1/2 cup finely chopped green coriander

3 tsp lemon juice

2-3tsp butter

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup breadcumbs

1cup grated cheese

a few strands of saffron soaked in 2tsp of warm milk

Method: Grease a casserole dish with butter.Take mashed potatoes,add salt ,1tsp lemon jc.,black pepper,1tsp butter,a little grated cheese,saffron and mix well.Take 1/2 of the potato mix and put a layer in the casserole dish.Take mashed peas,add salt,green chilli paste,a little lime juice,some chopped coriander,1tsp butter and mix well.Make a layer of 1/2 this  mix on the pot. layer.Take mashed paneer,add salt ,red chilli powder,chopped onion,1tsp butter,a little grated cheese and mix well.Put a layer of 1/2 this mix on the pea layer.Repeat the layers with the rest of the remaining mix.Prick the layers with a knife and pour the milk.Mix the breadcrumbs and remaining cheese,spread on top and bake in a preheated oven at 180deg. for 15 mins.Serve hot with garlic bread.

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Mrs Jayshree Mukerji’s jam topped Nan-Khatais

Assuming that the standard cup size would be about 225 ml size, here is the recipe for 20 nan khatais
Ingredients:
3/4 cup white butter softened (unsalted)
3/4 cup powdered sugar
3/4 cup plain flour or maida (approximately)
vanilla essence
light pink colour (optional)
any bright coloured jam
Method:
Sieve the flour and keep aside. Whisk the butter for few minutes till little light. Add the sugar little by little (in about 2-3 batches) and keep whisking between each addition. Add vanilla essence and a very small amount of the pink colour (optional).  When it gets quite fluffy, add the flour and knead into a soft but firm dough. (The flour quantity can be little less also in order to get the right amount of softness).
Divide the dough into small balls, about 1 inch, and place them on a greased baking tray, about 1 inch apart. Make a tiny depression in the centre of each ball with a thin skewer or toothpick to hold the jam. Put small blobs of the jam on them. Bake at 180-200 degree centigrade* for about 15-20 minutes.
*PS.—   The temperature depends on the oven. The temperatures of ovens vary with different ovens. My mother used 180-200 deg. Perhaps it would be best to start on a lower heat and then make it higher later.
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It’s the time for NOW !

The last month of the year…is it the time for introspection on what’s gone by or the time for new resolutions? Nah, not really…it’s the time for now, the time to enjoy one of the best months of the year with festivities, a spirit of fun and a lots of freshly baked ‘yummies’ along with family time !

So while we’re on the subject of now, in this year-end post, what I wanted to share with all of you was a set of recipes from some amazing blogs. Each one of these makes me feel a sense of urgency to get into the kitchen right away, get the pans ready and try them out with a vengeance :)

The reason for selecting these out of several others is firstly that they all fit in with what defines Ovenderful….bake something that’s simple, super flavourful and provides the comfort that only a truly home-baked treat would. There are many fancy recipes that one comes across, but what I wanted something that didn’t stand out in all its glitter, but lingered in the background with a quiet promise of true amazement the moment tasted it :)

So here goes the short and sweet list…do try them out and share your experience of how they were ! Happy and Ovenderful December!

http://www.flourmewithlove.com/2013/04/peanut-butter-chocolate-chip-bundt-cake.html

http://www.flourmewithlove.com/2012/01/double-chocolate-toffee-bread.html

http://www.mysanfranciscokitchen.com/red-pepper-frittata/

http://www.manilaspoon.com/2013/11/baked-eggs-with-herbs-and-tomatoes.html

http://www.mysanfranciscokitchen.com/strawberry-crumble-bars/

 

 

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Of Baking and Sons !

fudgy brownie1

Fudgy Brownies

My son was born in November 2012. You may think what that has to do with baking…..however, there is a connection, stronger than one would think – because how a mother cooks ( and by extension bakes! ) for her children , a lot of times seems to be seen as a reflection of her love for them ! Don’t we all remember how our mothers would bake cakes for us or brownies for our friends?

When I was pregnant, as it usually happens particularly with me, I started procrastinating about what kind of mother I would want to be.

You know how mothers are about their babies right?  “Let me learn Mrs X’s recipe of chocolate brownies because my son/daughter likes them that way” or “Let me make a batch of those cookies for his friends?”  Even as I write this blog post,  I have already been thinking of the kind of cake I want to make for my son’s 6th month birthday.:)

Baking really is an expression of love in its true form..it is an amazing way to create beautiful and lifelong experiences for your children which they will relive several years later sitting in their living rooms miles away from you.  The scent of your mother’s evergreen walnut cake occupies that single-most important space in your heart, which doesn’t fade with the passage of time.

The long and short of it is that more often than not, women learn to bake for their kids…which is what seems the natural course of things…However, the one thing I have seen a little less of is (though I have seen it and I’ll get to that very soon) women baking WITH their children…or saying “Let me ask A to get the baking tin ready so that WE can bake a cake”…yes, mothers do that with their daughters as a fun activity, but baking with your son? Hmm…..it seems different ? But then fun activities for kids remain fun irrespective of gender! And this isn’t really a Masterchef-influenced opinion J

The more I thought about it the more certain I was of who I wanted to be as a mother– of course, I want to indulge my son and give him his childhood memories of the scent of his favourite brownies  or the special cake on his birthday, so that he remembers me by those when he’s sitting far away from home…but alongside that instead of waiting for him to say “Mom can you make that cake for me?” I’d rather that he said “Can we make that cake?”

I am sure several other mothers might be doing the same…but for me it struck me when I saw my friend Michelle, a very talented baker and a wonderful mother encouraging and involving her boys in her baking. I knew I am heading in the right direction because not for a single m

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Chocolate Chip Scones

oment do I think that this makes me less “motherly” as compared to someone who bakes for her son always instead of with her son.  If anything, I might dare to say that it makes me more of a mother because it is one of the ways to make my son confident about developing a new skill.

Well, no one can understand what a mother feels when her baby is born…and I mean no one, not even another mother, I feel each mother-child bond is unique…I would like to ensure that baking together is what makes my bond with my son unique.

More along the same lines in the next post….

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A drive through the mountains….

Chocolate Chip Muffin

One of the rare occasions when baking inspired writing, particular a poem….Been a while since I visited the mountains, about a year now- but as I baked the Apple Pie and the Fudgy Brownies, my thoughts wandered back to the quaint mountain cafes that I have eaten in – a market café in McLeodganj, a small one with melting-in-the-mouth kind of cakes in Kaza(Spiti Valley) and a wooden, old-world one within the Tabo monastery premises….

And just as it often happens, thoughts further wandered into another direction and reminded me of the innumerable beautiful drives I have experienced in the mountains since childhood..here is a little bit about the sense it evoked…

The silence makes you hear your thoughts aloud,

And the mist floats in to preserve age-old mysteries,

As the mountain peak beckons you from behind the cloud,

Enshrouding the secrets of the whispering oak trees…

As my car takes a turn along the winding road,

I struggle to peer down the steep, unfathomable incline.

Along the edges of the narrow path, little children trod,

Sun rays filter through to unveil the verdant ravine.

Pine needles lie upright, stacked up in bundles,

Flowers of different colours, stir into reluctant consciousness,

A hint of new leaves bursting out of crevices and cracks,

And the old, fallen leaves float around in the wind, in bliss.

Apple orchards spread like thick blankets over the slopes,

Somewhere amidst the blanket, a nestled monastery to uncover,

Surrounded by fluttering, colourful prayer flags, stands a smiling monk,

His face filled with contentment I am yet to discover.

Ponies savouring water as they wait to begin their long climb,

From the Himalayan stream that calmly journeys through the rugged maze,

We drive across the old bridge that connects the imposing mountains,

And unexplored pieces of heaven await us at the end of the stony pathways…

As the homes awaken to steaming cups of tea,

And the mountain café becomes alive with scents from the oven,

I sat on a table, with a book, a cup of coffee and a fresh piece of pie,

The serenity from the mountains settles within my soul, as I gazed at the rising sun…

c

Freshly baked brownies...

Apple Pie in an All Butter Crust

Posted in Cupcakes and Muffins, Experiences, pie fillings, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another ‘first’ – who heard about selling cakes to raise funds for abandoned/injured animals?

For all of you who have been seeing my posts about dogs (adoptions, welfare and anything else! )  on Facebook,  irrespective of whether you share the same love or not, there is something I want to share – the first time I have ever sold my baked products was to raise money for a non-profit organization that works towards the recue, rehabilitation and rehoming of abandoned and injured dogs, primarily the Indian stray ones.

As you read this post, at some level it might seem strange, that I chose to link my passion for baking with my love for dogs..well, if you saw Indigree’s mail about their Garage and Bake Sale in the Select Citywalk Mall, it would have excited you too and in that moment of enthusiasm about wanting to contribute, I rushed to offer some basic baked items such as a chocolate cake and some chocolate muffins !

Chocolate Cake

For the longest time I believed that my actions and subsequent achievements were driven by my will and that really was true…But when I decided to bake for the sale, I hit a turning point – for the first time I was driven by my wish and was it scary or what!

So now here’s the thing – Baking was fun when I started out, life really changed when it became fulfilling but selling what you bake was a personal milestone that one seeks to achieve and yet, I wasn’t ready for it. You have to be that much surer of the process, ingredients and appearance….and to be honest, as a home baker, especially so soon I did not have the confidence to sell what I had baked..I could spend a whole evening baking something that I love, but if it didn’t sell especially since it was tied to such an important cause that comprised of passionate individuals constantly struggling to raise funds for these voiceless souls, I knew it could be potentially demoralizing for me…for the simple reason that my skill had not reached a level where it could be of value or help to someone..Yet that that time I had an ardent supporter in my husband who loves dogs too and wanted me to do my bit!

This blog is an indication of combining my multiple passions – writing and baking. When I read about the sale, I knew I could blend my passions again, the common one being baking ! J So it took a while to think through how much I could realistically bake an evening before once I got back from work, to ensure it remains fresh. I had decided to share a chocolate cake and some muffins for one of the Sale days and the same for the last day of sale too (based of course, on whether anyone does actually buy these or not! )…I have never baked for an entire night for any family member or friend and am proud to say that even after a long day at work, it didn’t seem tiring to bake, I really did feel that this could make a difference J..and sure did !

At the cost of sounding obnoxiously pompous, I have to admit that when I picked up Shikha ( volunteer at Indigree and organizer of the Sale)  called to tell me that my cake and muffins were sold out and if I could make more for the next day, the feeling was inexplicable ! J Nah, wait a minute, it isn’t difficult to explain – technically I had made money through baking and while I was far more thrilled to have done a little bit for our neglected animals, I don’t think making money through my job has given me this kind of a ‘high’!

 

Posted in Cakes, Experiences | 11 Comments

Keeping it Sweet and Simple…

I have looked at those wonderfully decorated cakes, gorgeous designs and yummy icing innumerable times and thought to myself – will I ever be able to turn out something that is so visually appealing…perhaps with a lot (and a lot! ) of practice (am sure that really is the way to go, for me at least!)..the shorter route is to go to the cake art / decorating classes but then it won’t remain an ovenderful experience any longer and hence considerably less fun!

Chocolate Butter Cookies

Anyhow, what also made me put that thought on the backburner was, that in the age of trying to achieve something that looks beautiful and perfect, sometimes a little bit of the magic gets lost, the warmth gets a little diluted…not to take away from the hard work put in by those who are wonderful at this art, but for me somehow the individuality of that baked goodie lies in its imperfect contours, its simplicity is reflective of the kitchens in our homes and its seeming ordinariness belies the strength of its taste…

What do you imagine when you think of sitting in a quilt on a cold winter night, watching a favourite movie or re-reading one of those books that you grew up reading? I usually imagine myself with a hot glass of milk…it’s the ultimate comfort food – chocolate butter cookies that melt in my mouth with each bite !

I guess you already know what I decided to make – a batch of chocolate butter cookies! My endeavor was to try to and make something simple, something that is a reflection of a warm home filled with cheer and laughter and endless chatter of the years gone by…and somehow freshly baked chocolate cookies from the oven signify that for me….

Since I was making them for a friend as well as my husband I had to make sure that I kept both their preferences in mind – so the chewy soft ones were for my husband and the crisp ones for my friend ! Yes – we often underestimate the preferences that individuals have with respect to the texture of biscuits and assume that they would prefer it crisp..but that might not be the case always….so as a biscuit baker do keep your consumer’s preference on this minor but critical aspect in mind :)

For the recipe check out the Recipes section at the top right hand corner of the page.

Posted in Biscuits, Experiences | 1 Comment

The Greek dessert recreated with the fruity flavor of Punjab!

“A host of golden Daffodils….” William Wordsworth certainly wasn’t describing food, but these words bring such evocative golden-yellow images, that as I read the line I kept thinking of the flowers, and then much as I tried to keep my thoughts restricted to flowers, for some reason it made me think of what fun it would be to try cupcakes of this colour?

The golden Daffodils !

Yeah, I was looking for fun after having spent a lazy weekend poring over interesting recipes from across the world and fuming over how India has such limited availability of baking ingredients, accessories and tools…what would I not give to get some of those things in my ‘pantry’!

But you know what – I found something I didn’t expect – I could make a cake using Semolina ( or Sooji) which we often use to make sweets/desserts such as Halwa in India.  I know for seasoned bakers perhaps this is nothing to be excited about because they would have baked semolina cakes before..but for me, it was a chance to change the entire texture of the cake by adding such a different element in a certain proportion to the mix !

Semolina cakes particularly with orange or lemon syrup are known as ‘Revani’ and are a typical Greek/Turkish dessert. It certainly was a unique version of cakes and pretty different from what I had baked so far….Our palates are accustomed to the cake flour (Maida as we use it here) and the inclusion of semolina had such impact on the texture that it really could be loved by some and not fancied by some others. But whose to know this without actually trying it out!

So you are probably thinking that I found my new project – Well, you are partially right because that’s just the first part. Like I mentioned that these cakes use an orange syrup which adds to the taste plus the sweetness of the syrup combines with the graininess of the semolina to create an amazing cake!

Ok so as usual I have digressed from what I started out to explain- so the oranges for the syrup. Could have easily popped over to one of the markets and picked up some…but then I already had so many fresh “Kinu”  lying at home.. For those who might not know what a Kinu is, it is a fruit that is mainly grown in Punjab and Haryana, (states in Northern India) particularly in winters and the quality of those are the best across the world. It looks almost identical to an orange, but its bigger in size, and much sweeter and juicer in taste; it has an unmatched flavor which can take a dessert including orange, to a totally different level if you used Kinu as a replacement…on a weekend visit to Chandigarh, we had picked up the Kinu which had just become ripe and were ready for sale!

Kinu Revani Cupcakes

Making these cupcakes was a true delight simply because another impulsive purchase from my trip to Punjab that I forgot to mention was a manual juicer for citrus fruits – which I seriously wanted to try out because I kept thinking that how efficient can this manual juicer be! To my amazement, it turns out ( as I discovered with a little extra effort) , it was a pretty good piece of equipment ! :)

On that optimistic note, I’ll leave you with diverse thoughts…spanning Greece to Punjab! Do try out the recipe and share your experience with me….For the recipe of the ‘Kinu’ Revani Cupcakes check out the Recipes section of the blog ( top right hand corner).

Posted in Cupcakes and Muffins, Experiences | 2 Comments

Flipping through a coffee shop menu..

On how many occasions have you sat and flipped through a menu wondering what to order with your coffee?  Innumerable times I am sure – of course we all have our favorites in the places we visit often, but we do visit a lot of new places too where we read the menu over and over again in the hope that something “yummy sounding” will jump out and make up your mind for you !

In hindsight I think the faint strains of Sting’s “Fields of Gold” playing in the café had something to do with me not being able to concentrate on the menu in front..it is one of my favourite songs and all I had done in the past 10 minutes was turning the pages end to end as if trying to memorize the sections!

After I finally managed to order, I sat poring (yeah, literally that!) over the menu in general interest. However, since I was baking a lot, I took a more keen interest in the descriptions of the desserts or savoury baked dishes. Come to think of it, what kind of in-depth insights can a regular café menu provide :)

Chocolate Cream tart in crumb crust

To a novice baker, whose trying to learn the ropes primarily by reading and then re-creating the experience, the descriptions provided a plethora of information and I managed to find a couple of things that were exciting enough for me to think about trying. …and while we are on this aspect, I must share that the sneaky desire to be ‘popular’ also reared its ugly head and I picked up those elements to try that I saw my friends practically salivating over even as they read the description! Yeah, I think finally at some basic level (however absolutely consciously! ) , I had applied my long-forgotten business school knowledge of understanding consumer behavior and applying it to the product ! :)

So, much to the embarrassment of my friends, I actually started taking down the name of what my next ‘project’ would be– Chocolate Crumb Crust. Again, it really was not about trying to emulate a successful and absolutely perfect dessert or baked goodie that a patisserie or coffee shop had. For a person like me who enjoys writing, the alliteration somehow made it seem more fun, exotic and delicious – that simply was the reason for trying to make this!

This crust had been used as the base for a beautiful chocolate mousse.  After baking several butter crusts it was time to try something different and exciting yet again…there were two things I definitely wanted to do , firstly make a filling which was not a chocolate mousse since that would be too predictable for me, and secondly, create something that ensured that the identity of the crust literally shone through and that it wasn’t merely a base or crust in a divine dish, but an irreplaceable part of that dessert itself.

Because I had chosen the crust already, I had to think through and research extensively to come up with a good filling that complemented the crust but

Tarts ready to be served!

did not mask its flavor or texture. So I decided on a chocolate cream pie filling which would double the ‘chocolatey’ impact, but its smoothness would go hand-in-hand with the crispness of the crumb crust. And instead of making a pie I thought of using my new gift – tart moulds , for the same.

The results of this combination are shared for you to see – easily one of my most enjoyable Ovenderful experiences, because in times when one tends to get carried away by decorating or dressing up a dessert, I felt that this tart actually made me focus on how to keep it simple, yet beautiful and a create something which is a reflection of a warm home…where one can sit with family and friends over a cup of coffee and chocolate cream tart and endlessly chatter..And they are beautifully light and long-lasting, so you can have as many as your heart desires!

For the recipes of the filling and the crust, please go to the Recipes section at the top right hand corner of the page.

 

 

 

 

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