Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake

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One year ago, today. A group of 15 people from my batch, including me, fresh into the first year of post graduation studies at NICMAR took our oaths as the new Students’ Council. We were thrown together, each of us with a different personality and skill set. I could say we were a bunch of misfits put together to form a team. To work towards the ‘Student Activities’ of the college.

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I remember how it was those first few days. We didn’t know each other at all. How we worked, how our equation was and would be with each other. All unknown. We were at the start of this journey with so many milestones to achieve along the way.

But I don’t want to talk about the journey or the milestones. Everyone around us has experienced that with us. Today we ‘officially’ handed over our posts to our successors. Suddenly, it feels like the year never happened. The crazy laughter, the long endless nights of work, the anger towards each other and the whole world, that feeling we got after every milestone. I think each of us did have these thoughts at some point or the other. I’ve been asked several times ‘Why did you decide to get into the council anyway?’. I can’t figure out what to answer such people. I asked myself the same question too. But today, being here I know the answer. I know that this one year is nothing when thrown into perspective with the rest of our lives. But those who weren’t in the council will never realise what they missed out on. We are all going to have to work for the rest of our lives. But this was one job, one responsibility that was given to us solely because there was just this feeling in each of us that this was something we WANTED to do. Not something we HAD to do. That is an incredible feeling. We have been a bunch of misfits who found a way to make things work beautifully even at the worst times. We’ve become the people who can pull off events flawlessly. There are so many things I would do differently if I got the chance to repeat the year. But I don’t want to. Because then it wouldn’t be the year that was.

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I keep thinking that there is something more I need to say to say goodbye. But words are not enough right now. I think the rest of the ex-council will agree with me. :)

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On a totally unrelated note, I made this Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook a few weeks back and I was totally floored by what a perfect tea-time cake it is. Not too sweet, so crumbly and a perfect bite. It is THE tea time cake. The cornmeal adds another dimension to the texture of it. Also, all that yummy jam from blueberries. Oh, blueberries, I wish could basically have them all year around. What perfection in berries! I was saving 2 frozen packs of them for something special and I couldn’t think of anything better to use them in. I think any type of jam-ey fruit would work with this cake. Bookmark this recipe for strawberry season, please. Though the next time I make it, I will add some more butter in the streusel for a better bite and crunch. I suggest you make this cake for when guests come over for tea. Or maybe just so that you could have an amazing tea time treat!

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Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake
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For the cake
  1. 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
  2. 1 cup all-purprose flour, plus more for pan
  3. ½ cup cornmeal
  4. 2 teaspoons baking powder
  5. ½ teaspoon salt
  6. 1 cup sugar
  7. 2 large eggs
  8. ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  9. ¼ teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
  10. ⅓ cup sour cream or yoghurt
  11. 2 cups blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
  12. --
For the streusel
  1. ½ cup sugar
  2. 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  3. 2 tablespoons cornmeal
  4. ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  5. Pinch of table salt
  6. 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square pan with parchment, then either butter and flour the bottom and sides or coat them with a nonstick spray.
  2. Whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl, set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl between additions, then add the vanilla and lime zest. Add 1/3 of flour mixture, all of the sour cream/yoghurt, and another third of the flour, beating until just blended. Mix the remaining flour with the blueberries. Fold the blueberry-flour mixture gently into the cake batter.
  3. Spread the cake batter in the prepared cake pan. Using the original dry-ingredients bowl, combine the streusel ingredients with a fork. Mash in the butter with your fork, fingertips, or pastry blender. Scatter topping over the batter.
  4. Bake the cake about 35 minutes, or until top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for about 5 minutes, then cut and serve!
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Cinnamon Chimney http://www.cinnamonchimney.com/
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Classic Tres Leches Cake

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You know how you grew up with certain foods or dishes cooked by your mother which were so characteristic of her? There were these special things that she cooked on some special days, and you would just wait till it got done. Especially the desserts. For festivals. Or birthdays. Or the ones made for no reason at all. There were days made special only because something wonderful was made.

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The funny thing is that my mother had some typical desserts perfected to the T. Everytime she made it, it would be just like the last time she made it. Perfect. But even if my brother and I had eaten it so many times over the years, we would still relish it every single time – never getting bored. That’s the magic of things your mother makes for you. Those typical desserts which always take you back to your childhood. Those desserts which no matter how much you eat outside, you will always think of how your mother made it.

My brother and I grew up with some very simple things. A chocolate and vanilla marble cake – We would always ask her to save us some batter to lick before the cake went in the oven. And the cake would be devoured by within half an hour of being out of the oven. Nankhatai – a rich, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth cookie. Gaajar ka halwa. Fruit salad – Typical fruits in a thin, milky custard. These are some of the desserts which I will probably never make for my future kids because I wouldn’t want to change the perfect memories of them from back then. I am just going to have to think of different desserts. Different memories.

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This cake will definitely be one of those desserts that my future kids grow up with. The one which will make an ordinary day special. The dessert which will make them wait impatiently while it gets prepared.

Tres Leches means Three Milks in Spanish. It is a light airy sponge cake soaked in 3 kinds of milk and topped off with whipped cream. I made the Tres Leches Cake for the first time in March last year for my belated birthday party. After that, I made it about 8 or 9 times. It is the cake I think of making when I have friends coming over, especially ones who haven’t had it yet. It is one of my mom’s favorite things made by me – she requests(!!) it every time I go home. And even though I have given her the recipe a couple of times, she still will want me to make it for her! It is beautiful. A subtle, different flavor that just melts in your mouth. Although I enjoy eating it so much myself, I love making it now because I love watching the reactions of people who eat a piece for the first time and then immediately reach for a second helping. And then a third. I don’t know one person who hasn’t reacted that way after tasting it. I could go on. But you get my point.

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The sponge itself is made with a stiff whipped egg whites mixed with beaten pale yolks. It has no butter or oil which keeps that lightness intact. I have topped the cake off before with fresh mangoes (Which pair up wonderfully with that whipped cream!) or strawberries. Even some grated chocolate. But even just like that, the cake is wonders!

Yeah, okay. I am just going to put it out there, I am kind of crazy when it comes to this cake. I strongly urge you to make it if you have even the tiniest interest in baking. You won’t regret it.

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My future kids will be so lucky! :P

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Classic Tres Leches Cake
Serves 8
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup All-purpose Flour
  2. 1-1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
  3. 1/4 teaspoon Salt
  4. 5 whole Eggs
  5. 1 cup Sugar, Divided
  6. 1 teaspoon Vanilla
  7. 1/3 cup Milk
  8. 1 can Evaporated Milk (I just reduce one litre of milk to 400ml)
  9. 1 can Sweetened, Condensed Milk
  10. 1/4 cup Heavy Cream
Icing
  1. 1.5-2 cups Heavy Cream, For Whipping
  2. 3 Tablespoons Powdered Sugar
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 x 13 inch pan liberally until coated.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Separate eggs.
  3. Beat egg yolks with 3/4 cup sugar on high speed until yolks are pale yellow. Stir in milk and vanilla. Pour egg yolk mixture over the flour mixture and stir very gently until combined.
  4. Beat egg whites on high speed until soft peaks form. With the mixer on, pour in remaining 1/4 cup sugar and beat until egg whites are stiff but not dry.
  5. Fold egg white mixture into the batter very gently until just combined. Pour into prepared pan and spread to even out the surface.
  6. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn cake out onto a rimmed platter and allow to cool. I usually just leave the cake in the pan I bake it in.
  7. Combine condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream in a small pitcher. When cake is cool, pierce the surface with a fork several times. Slowly drizzle all but about 1 cup of the milk mixture—try to get as much around the edges of the cake as you can.
  8. Allow the cake to absorb the milk mixture for 30 minutes. To ice the cake, whip the heavy cream with 3 tablespoons of sugar until thick and spreadable.
  9. Spread over the surface of the cake. Decorate cake with mangoes, strawberries or chocolate. Cut into squares and serve.
Notes
  1. Evaporated milk isn't easily available in India. I usually just boil a litre of milk and then simmer it for about 2 hours - regularly checking on it and stirring till it is reduced to about 350 to 400ml.
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman
Cinnamon Chimney http://www.cinnamonchimney.com/

 

 

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Roasted Potato Omelette

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We need to sit down and have a little chat. About Life. Love. Dreams. And about the depressing hole in my life caused by the lack of a well-equipped kitchen. One word, people. Hostel.

Okay mostly I am just going to talk about the last part. The kitchen. Because if I get started on the first 3 we will be sitting here for a while.

I have spent 5 years in the hostel during my undergrad. And 8 months in the hostel here too. But this time around it has been so tough to not have a space to cook or create. All I have a 3’x3′ space with a kettle. And a tiny little spice rack. I think starting this blog has made me more creative in terms of food. I don’t like cooking the same things over and over. Something has to be different every time. Bad habit.

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But I think I need help. Hostel-ites are almost always hungry because of the lack of home-cooked food. I am hungry just to cook.

And that is why, there is going to be a serious lack of posts here for the next few months. I will try my best, of course. I think escaping to Mumbai every few weekends is going to save me. My kitchen is Mumbai is probably my most favorite place in the whole world. I have spent hours in that little space. It has this beautiful light coming in from one side, and is completely stocked up the way I like it. With my favorite things. My trusty hand blender, my favorite glass mixing bowl. This square baking pan that has been in my family for more than 15 years. And my tiny oven. I really shouldn’t get started on my oven. See, I need help. I talk about my kitchen like it’s a long lost lover.

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So let’s keep this simple and while we’re talking about some of my favorite things, let’s get to Eggs and Potatoes. One of the most versatile ingredients I know. There is just so much you could do with these. I almost always wake up on lazy weekends craving for eggs and potatoes. In any form. This meal has the heartiness of the favorite omelette and the crispy roasted potato. Like Chips in your omelette, you ask? Really? Yes. Because I like homemade potato chips. And I will put it in my omelette. Like a boss. Honestly, I was so hungry when I was preparing this breakfast/lunch/whatever-meal-you-want that I didn’t bother to look for a mandolin to slice my potato evenly. It turned out to be better than I expected, because some of the slices were extra crisp and some were just perfectly starchy. Perfectly uneven. The springs got slightly caramelised at the bottom of the pan while the eggs where cooking, which complimented the green peppers so well. I kept the omelette very mildly spiced, but I think most people will like a dash of red chilli powder or black pepper in.

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Roasted Potato Omelette
Serves 1
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Ingredients
  1. 2 eggs
  2. 2 tablespoons milk
  3. Paprika to taste
  4. Salt to taste
  5. A dash of Worcestershire sauce
  6. 2 potatoes, thinly sliced with a mandolin or knife
  7. One green pepper, diced
  8. A few sprigs of Spring Onion or scallions, chopped
  9. 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
Instructions
  1. Toss the potato slices in one tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle some salt and paprika over to taste. Toss again. Place on a baking tray over parchment paper (They will stick to the tray without parchment!). Roast in the oven preheated to 200C, about 15-20 or till the thicker slices are cooked and the thinner ones are browned at the edges, not burnt. Meanwhile, beat the eggs well with the milk, salt and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.

  2. Once the potatoes are done, remove from oven and let cool. Heat the rest of the olive oil in a 6in skillet over medium heat, add the spring onions and green peppers. Add some salt and paprika to taste. Let them cook very less, about a minute. They will cook more when the eggs are added, so don't overcook them. Add the potatoes. Stir carefully and pour in the beaten eggs. Lower the heat, cover with a plate or something and let the eggs cook, about 5 minutes. Keep checking on the doneness every 2 minutes or so. The springs onions will burn easily.
  3. Turn the omelette once and cook the other side. Then remove from heat. Serve with some warm baked beans.
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Cinnamon Chimney http://www.cinnamonchimney.com/
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Yogurt Fruitsicles

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This is more of a wrap up post – Of the summer of 2014, my internship and the last time I probably will get to stay at home for such a long period of time.

It’s been an unnaturally hot summer – I blame Global Warming, as does every person I have done small talk with about the weather. Air-conditioning seems to makes it easier to survive in Muscat. But breaking into a sweat for the 5 minutes that you are walking to the car from work is torture. I am such a first world problem brat, I tell you. Before anyone tells me to think of all those poor construction workers – Or even any of my friends who were posted on-site for their internships – toiling in the heat before I complain, I have to say that it was a good summer. Despite the constant breaking into sweat.

It was a summer of self-discovery. I can say I truly grew up – And grew OUT of so many things and people. I did learn so much about my family, myself, what I want in life – Both professionally and personally. Specifically what I DIDN’T want in life. 

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So philosophical, no? Okay, I have to stop and say I didn’t exactly reach some sort of a higher power in self attainment. But it was a step up from how I felt in the beginning of the summer. If you are meeting me after these 2 months, don’t expect me to be a totally different person. I am still sort of nuts. I did also spend a ridiculous amount of time downloading and watching TV series – Nashville, Elementary, 30 Rock, Orange Is The New Black among the regulars. Also shopping, I shopped a  lot. One might think I didn’t do an internship here at all. What can I say? You have an unusual amount of free time when you are living at home with your mother pampering you, even with a full time job.

I usually come to Muscat and become a recluse – Away from not only the hustle and bustle of India, but also away from all the people. It really helps my sanity. Usually it’s just a 9-10 day Diwali vacation thing. This was a 2 month thing. I have to admit that a lot of the times I missed my friends so much and I was jealous of them hanging out together. But by the end of the internship, I had no regrets about my decision to come to Muscat. I started this blog, cooked and baked like a crazy person and actually lived with my parents for the first time as a mature, responsible adult (They would beg to differ, of course).

I also may have found my way back to something I had lost when I was not so mature and responsible. But more on that later :)

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So enough with the wrap-up and getting to these fruitsicles I made to cope up with the horrible heat. I drank way too much Grapefruit+Orange juice over the summer. For breakfast almost everyday. I was obsessed. Then, my mom bought these black grapes that were so amazingly naturally sweet that I had to combine them with my latest obsession.

I love how sometimes such simple problems (Read: First World Problems) can result in the most exquisite creations.

These fruitsicles are simple to make and are so so healthy. Fruits and yogurt, really? Health-freak and summer-hater dream! You don’t even need any fancy molds to make these. Paper cups! They don’t even require much prep. 5 minutes of prep for each layer and some waiting for the freezing. It is also a great idea for a quick smoothie. One time I just threw a fruitsicle into the blender with some more yogurt and had a super quick smoothie. And do I even have to mention (Yes, I do) how pretty these colors are?

Make-every-summer-for-the-rest-of-your-life treat.

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Yogurt Fruitsicles
Yields 5
Grapefruit, yoghurt and grapes iced up on a stick!
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Ingredients
  1. 1 grapefruit
  2. 1.5 cups yoghurt
  3. 2 cups black grapes
  4. Powdered sugar, to taste
  5. 1 tsp, Vanilla Essence
Instructions
  1. Juice the grapefruit and strain the juice through a sieve. Add sugar as per taste and stir well. Divide equally into paper cups. Freeze till the top is hard, about 1 hour.
  2. In a separate bowl, beat the yogurt with vanilla essence and sugar to taste till there are no lumps. Divide among the paper cups carefully, ensuring that the grapefruit is frozen. Freeze for about 15-20 mins or till the yoghurt is semi solid. Take out, place ice-cream sticks in the center and freeze again for about an hour.
  3. Juice the black grapes in a blender and strain though a sieve. Add sugar to the juice if it needs additional sweetness (Mine didn't, so I didn't add any). Divide equally among the paper cups, again ensuring that the yoghurt has frozen completely. Leave to freeze overnight.
  4. To unmold, tear the paper cups.
Notes
  1. Freezer times may vary according to individual freezers. Do make sure your layers are properly frozen before adding another layer.
  2. The sugar can substituted with honey in case of the yogurt and grapes layer, but not in the case of grapefruit as honey brings out this ugly bitterness in grapefruit juice.
Cinnamon Chimney http://www.cinnamonchimney.com/

 

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Heineken Lager Beer flavored Cupcakes

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It’s a common view that cupcakes are a girly dessert. You will mostly find girls ooh-ing and aah-ing over a pretty and cutely decorated cupcake.

I know a few guys who actually like cupcakes but run away from the artificially colored and overly decorated cupcake. Most guys are so simple and uncomplicated, they wouldn’t care about a pink rosette or funfetti or sprinkles. Or flowers. Or sparkles. For them (As I have been told by a few friends), it’s about the flavor and the taste. The looks matter, of course. But it should be neat and presentable. Maybe just like they feel about girls?

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Yes, I asked. ‘Research’.

Well, Father’s Day is just around the corner and I had to bake something for my Dad – Because that’s my thing, baking special things for special people. And not a cake which is sometimes a pain in the ass to decorate and present. Cupcakes are easy. They bake faster, are a smaller bite, you don’t have to worry about how to decorate this gigantic cake, and torte-ing and leveling and what have you. You don’t have to worry too much about their appearance if you don’t want to you. Even a simple pile up of frosting on top will go a long way.

Well, you couldn’t get anything manlier than Beer. A man’s best friend, to quote a friend of mine. I have a love-hate relationship with the beverage myself. I took a while to develop a taste for it, but I started liking it later. I did stop when I realized the calories it packs on. I still go all ‘Mmmmmm’ when I smell beer, but I have to remind myself of those terrible calories to just not.

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It took a lot of searching on Google to find the perfect recipe I wanted to use. I tweaked it a bit, adjusting the amount of beer. The batter seemed a little thick, so I thinned it with some more beer. I also used just regular butter cream with beer added to it. No vanilla added to distract from the glorious beer flavor. When I tasted just the cake without the frosting, the beer flavored was very mild – had almost cooked out. But the butter cream balanced that out perfectly. A beer-loving friend told me a beer like Kingfisher will add a stronger flavor. Notice how I also just plopped the butter cream on top? Uncomplicated. I added crushed Maltesers on top just for a bit of decoration and luckily, they added another delicate dimension to the flavor.

Needless to say, these are adult cupcakes. They would make a good grown-up’s dinner dessert. I think this may be the answer to the question a lot of beer-hating girls keep asking – ‘How can you drink beer? The SMELL!’. If you know someone who has asked you this question, or just hates beer, make these cupcakes for them for a transition phase. I can’t guarantee that they will start drinking beer, but they will sure as hell stop asking you that question.

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Heineken Lager Beer flavored Cupcakes
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. For the cupcakes:
  2. 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  3. 2/3 cup sugar
  4. 1 egg
  5. 3/4 cup lager beer
  6. 1 tsp vanilla essence
  7. 1 1/2 cup flour
  8. 1 teaspoon baking soda
  9. 1/2 tsp salt
  10. For the butter cream:
  11. 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  12. 2 1/2 cups, icing sugar
  13. 4-5 tablespoons lager beer (Can be adjusted to taste)
  14. 4 tablespoons Heavy cream (Can be adjusted for creaminess)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350F/180C. Line 1 cupcake tin with cupcake liners.In a medium large bowl, cream the butter with sugar until fluffy.

  2. In a separate bowl combine flour, baking soda and salt. Add egg to sugar/butter mixture and beat until incorporated. Add vanilla and beer and mix. Gradually add flour mixture to wet mixture and mix until just combined.
  3. Fill cupcake liners 2/3 of a way full. Place in preheated oven and bake for 15-18 minutes or until a knife is inserted and when removed is clean.

  4. For the butter cream:
  5. In a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed till soft and creamy. Sift in the icing sugar. Beat at low speed at first to prevent the icing sugar to explode everywhere, then at high, about 5 mins. Add the beer and cream. You can increase the quantity of these little by little, according to what taste and consistency of frosting you like. Add in more sugar, if you plan to pipe the frosting. I had about a cup of frosting leftover.
  6. Assemble:
  7. Pipe the frosting as desired. If you feel the cupcakes need to be a little more moist or need a stronger beer flavor, poke the cakes with a toothpick and brush some beer on. I didn't because I felt the flavor was fine.
Adapted from The Seaside Baker
Adapted from The Seaside Baker
Cinnamon Chimney http://www.cinnamonchimney.com/

 

 

 

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