Cocktail nuts

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I am a big snacker. It might have something to do with going to boarding school where good food was scarce and I was often starving (even though pictures of my pudgy self will have you believe otherwise). I then moved to Philadelphia for college and went on to pack Freshmen 15 in like two weeks because there was no portion control or a bell to signify that meal time was over. Soon I was eating 5 brownies in a sitting after polishing off slices of pepperoni pizza, only to come back to my dorm room to find my super nice new friends had deposited even more brownies on the desk because of my sweet tooth. It was of little surprise that my father didn’t recognise me at the Calcutta international airport a few months later when I went back for my brother’s wedding. His exact words were and I quote, “ I couldn’t spot you anywhere and this round ball kept waving at me and then I realised it was you. Just fatter. “ And my poor mother had to bully tailors into altering all my outfits two days before the functions because I had gotten so big that none of my expensive lehengas and salwar kameez would fit.

Its been a few years since the winter of 2003 and I am happy to report that i have got my impulsive eating under control. Well, almost. I still have an inner monologue every single time I sit down for a meal, which goes something like this- “this is so good, i am going to take two more helpings, just stop fucking eating, you know there will still be food at dinner” or “there is more chicken in the fridge and seriously if you eat another bite, you will get super gassy” or “like, seriously, stop eating, everyone’s waiting at the table for you to finish”. Anyways, apart from the internal battle that wages on at every meal, I have tricked myself into eating small portions by eating often. And these nuts are one of my favourite things. Salty, spicy, slightly sweet and plenty of crunch. They are fantastic paired with a vodka tonic (my drink of choice) but don’t need a cocktail to make them seriously addictive.


Cocktail nut mix

  • Almonds  2 cups

  • Cashew    2 cups

  • Pumpkin seeds 1/3 cup

  • Sunflower seeds 1/3 cup      

  • Nigella seeds         1/4 cup

  • Brown sugar      1/4 cup

  • Salt    14 gm

  • Red chilli powder 5 gm

  • Black pepper powder 5 gm

  • Rosemary 10 gm

  • Honey 1/2 cup

  • Olive oil 1/4 cup

 

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 165 degrees C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone mat.

  2. Combine nuts, seeds, salt and spices in a large mixing bowl.

  3. Add chopped rosemary and stir thoroughly.

  4. Add oil and honey and stir till the nut mixture is coated evenly.

  5. Spread nut mixture on the baking sheet. Baker for 20 minutes or until the nuts turn golden brown.

  6. Remove from oven and let it cool to room temperature.

  7. Store it in airtight container.

Spiced pumpkin bread+doing things even when you are not ready

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This week, I got my first food styling gig for a tv commercial and it was the most fun I have had in the last few months even though it involved a lot of running around, meetings, hours of food prep, a few meltdowns and being on set for almost 24 hours but it was worth it. I couldn’t sleep the night before because I felt a bit nervous. I had never styled for such a big shoot with multiple cuisines and dishes to tackle in a very short time frame. I reminded myself that the butterflies in my stomach weren’t because of nerves but excitement. Its a neat little trick I had heard on one of the many podcasts I listen to on my endlessly long commute and am happy to report it works like a charm!

I woke up at 4 am on the day of the shoot, downed about a litre of coffee to actually wake up and then breezed through the day because one, the entire team was incredibly kind and helpful and secondly, I was super organised. I suck at multitasking but there I was whisking buttercream, styling the table for a pie, rolling out dough, adding finishing touches to a coconut chutney and showing the actress how to drizzle ganache on a bundt cake like a pro. Just because I had spend over two weeks preparing for every little detail. It paid off and everything went off smoothly except the part where I burned my hand but that happens almost on a daily basis. It has been three years since I was back on a set (I worked as an assistant director on tv commercials before starting my food brand)and it felt like I had never left. I remembered the chaos, the camaraderie, 15 minute lunch breaks and overcrowded vanities. It was good to be back, especially because I was actually doing something that I truly enjoy and it was only for a day :)

I am not one to usually step out of my comfort zone to ask for what I want. But that’s how I got this gig. I spoke to a bunch of lovely people I worked with and showed them some stuff I was working on and asked them to give me a shot as a food stylist. I did all of this with confidence even though in my head, I didn’t feel too qualified for it. But I reminded myself that I was 34 freaking years old and if not now, then when? So next time you are nervous, ask yourself the same question. It’ll do the trick.

Oh and this pumpkin bread is pretty easy, even for first time bakers. Plus it tastes great because of the blend of spices used in the batter (cinnamon,nutmeg,ginger and clove)!. its hard to find canned pumpkin puree in India so I make my own by roasting the pumpkins and then grinding it in the food processor. Thats the only tedious part of this otherwise easy recipe.

Orange & brown butter madeleines

 When I was little, I fantasised about flying to places for meetings. That was my idea of a successful and glamorous life. I also dreamt about carrying a smart briefcase and donning a stiff suit. This was the 80s, I lived in Gaya (small town in Bihar, birthplace of Buddhism) and there was no internet. So all my fashion cues came from my father who only put on a suit when he had to go out of town for a meeting.  These days most of my time is spent in either going to meetings or sitting in them. Its mind numbingly boring- the introductions, the ice breaker, the beating around the bush and always, always the polite dick swinging. I want to tell the five year old me that its a huge waste of time! And instead of fantasising about meetings, I should have dreamt of travelling to eat great food, meet new friends and explore. The problem is that once you have sold a dream to yourself, its hard to accept it was kind of stupid. So, I have turned into the sort of person who gets anxious when she is not working on something. I think its a classic case of needing validation, of feeling that my life is productive, significant. But we all know thats a lie. A good life is about balance. Doing meaningful work, spending time with loved ones, taking your pleasures seriously and lots of rest to do absolutely nothing.  I bake for work and I bake for pleasure. So maybe, I got a few things right. Like this delicious recipe for  orange brown butter madeleines , which I baked for my accounting team to make doing taxes a little bearable. And when I am stuck in endless meetings, I fantasise about being a kid again who chased cows, terrorised the other kids and climbed into her mom’s lap when everyone was pissed off with her.

When I was little, I fantasised about flying to places for meetings. That was my idea of a successful and glamorous life. I also dreamt about carrying a smart briefcase and donning a stiff suit. This was the 80s, I lived in Gaya (small town in Bihar, birthplace of Buddhism) and there was no internet. So all my fashion cues came from my father who only put on a suit when he had to go out of town for a meeting.

These days most of my time is spent in either going to meetings or sitting in them. Its mind numbingly boring- the introductions, the ice breaker, the beating around the bush and always, always the polite dick swinging. I want to tell the five year old me that its a huge waste of time! And instead of fantasising about meetings, I should have dreamt of travelling to eat great food, meet new friends and explore. The problem is that once you have sold a dream to yourself, its hard to accept it was kind of stupid. So, I have turned into the sort of person who gets anxious when she is not working on something. I think its a classic case of needing validation, of feeling that my life is productive, significant. But we all know thats a lie. A good life is about balance. Doing meaningful work, spending time with loved ones, taking your pleasures seriously and lots of rest to do absolutely nothing.

I bake for work and I bake for pleasure. So maybe, I got a few things right. Like this delicious recipe for orange brown butter madeleines, which I baked for my accounting team to make doing taxes a little bearable. And when I am stuck in endless meetings, I fantasise about being a kid again who chased cows, terrorised the other kids and climbed into her mom’s lap when everyone was pissed off with her.

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Pistachio & marmalade wreath

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I am sure everyone feels this way but how is it September already? Last two months have gone by in a flash and I don't have much to show for it. Except my toned abs. haha! just kidding. There are no abs. There are however a plethora of failed recipes for high protein granola and granola bars which I'm developing for our new product line, that is if I actually get it right. There is also a brand new website , developing a new social media strategy (our current one doesn't exist), a home renovation that is under way (!!!!) and a whole lot of grey hairs. So I guess I sort of know where the year went but can't really wrap my head around it. 

I made a little list of resolutions. The ones I need to get to before new year's eve. It includes a head stand, making a wedding cake (two of my closest friends are getting married in December so no more excuses), nailing the high protein granola/energy bar recipe, keeping my starter alive (its nine months old already!), consistently blogging(hi!) and working through the laminated dough section of my culinary course. And that's what brings us to this recipe. I have been baking danishes, croissant(this one is a pain in the ass simply because of the hand rolling/ warm climate which melts the butter immediately, making me run back and forth with a sheet of dough to the fridge to chill before I can roll again) and brioche dough (my favourite so far-make it the day before, chill it overnight and turn it into lots of different things- babka, buns, a simple loaf of bread).

I had some brioche dough in the fridge which I rolled into a rough rectangle and filled it with a rich pistachio frangipane (its divine!) and dollops of sweet bitter homemade marmalade and then rolled back into a long cylindrical tube. I was going to cut and braid it like a traditional babka but then I had too much dough on my hand and started twisting this around until I had a pretty wreath thing going. 

It baked up all bronze and beautiful. Its even prettier once sliced with deep green swirls and really rich. A small slice with a cup of tea or coffee is all you need. Put this on your baking list before the year ends and you will be one happy clam.

 


Pistachio & marmalade wreath

BRIOCHE DOUGH - Recipe from Chef Sim Cass ,Institute of Culinary Education.

  • All purpose flour   910 gm
  • butter        225 gm
  • eggs        450 gm
  • milk        155 gm
  • salt           14gm
  • sugar       55 gm
  • SAF GOLD yeast   14 gm
  • Plum jam for filling (or any jam of your choice)- 120 gm
  • Caster sugar- 100 gm (to roll the doughnuts in)

PISTACHIO FRANGIPANE- Recipe from Smitten Kitchen

  • 110 grams shelled unsalted pistachios
  • 10 grams all purpose flour
  • Few pinches of sea salt
  • 75 grams sugar
  • 70 grams)unsalted butter, cold is fine
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract

 6 TBSP of marmalade 

 

BRIOCHE DOUGH

  1. Combine milk and yeast in a mixing bowl and whisk. Let it sit for 5 minutes till the yeast is activated and bubbles form on the surface of milk.
  2. Add eggs, salt, sugar and flour to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes with a dough hook attachment. Then mix on high speed for 3 minutes.
  3. Cut really cold butter in small cubes. Keep it in the fridge if it starts to melt. Butter has to be really cold before you incorporate into the dough.
  4. Add butter slowly into the dough while the dough continues to mix. Mix for 12-15 minutes and near the end, scrape down the sides.
  5. Scrape dough into a a bowl that has been oiled lightly and cover it with plastic wrap.
  6. Allow the dough to sit for an hour at room temperature. 
  7. Refrigerate dough overnight.

PISTACHIO FRANGIPANE

  1. In your food processor bowl,  grind pistachios, sugar, flour and salt together until the nuts are powdery. Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the machine. Run the machine until no buttery bits are visible.
  2. Add vanilla and egg, blending until just combined.

ASSEMBLE

  1. Remove the brioche dough from the refrigerator.
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough roughly into a rectangle. If the dough becomes too warm at any point, gently place it on the back of a sheet pan lined with parchment and refrigerate for 10 minutes, then continue working.
  3. Spread pistachio frangipane onto the brioche using an offset spatula, reaching all the way to the edges but leaving 2 cm of dough bare on one of the long sides. Brush the bare part with water.
  4. Dollop marmalade all over the dough and gently spread it with an offset spatula.
  5. Starting from the other long side, roll up the dough tightly and evenly. Once the dough is rolled up, gently roll the log until it is 50 cm in length, being careful not to squish or deform the dough.
  6. Using a large knife, make a cut in the dough log, leaving 3 cm at the top uncut. Place the right half of dough over the left, then repeat until you have a "braid" of dough. Gently brush a bit of water onto the ends of the dough and twist it into a circle and press the ends together. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
  7. Place a piece of plastic wrap lightly on the surface of the brioche and let it proof in a warmish place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. In Bombay, it takes about an hour in a warm place (my kitchen counter more specifically).
  8. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Brush the brioche with an egg wash and bake until golden brown, abut 20 to 25 minutes. 
  9. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.Slice and enjoy!

Upside down cherry cake

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I have fallen off the workout wagon again. I had a good run for several months where I alternated between yoga, weights and cardio. I also oiled my hair regularly, cut back on sugar and alcohol, read a few books instead of binge watching Parks & Rec- all in all, I felt like a fully functioning adult. And then my husband got back from New York after two months. So obviously we had a lot of catching up to do. Then I got a massive corporate order while my main man at work, Ramesh recovered from an appendix surgery in the local hospital and I pretty much moved into my kitchen for a week. So, I was baking and stress eating that I was not baking fast enough and my goddamn face erupted in pimples because of the sugar and copious amounts of coffee I was drinking. Even my piss smelled like coffee. Seriously.

Now work is done but I have just been bumming around, hanging with my dogs and catching up with old coworkers who I haven't seen in years. So, obviously pitchers of sangria were involved while we caught up on the time we spend getting beaten up by strippers in Thailand (true story, look up Suzie Wong) . I was too hungover for yoga again this morning and I would have stayed cuddled up in bed if it wasn't for my dog pawing me in the face while stretching in his sleep and my back that felt like it needed a solid hour of stretching. So I got my butt out of bed, took a shot of apple cider vinegar (life changer, try it. your gut will thank you) and spend an hour doing yoga. I felt virtuous enough that I decided to have a slice of cake for breakfast. Really getting good at balancing things over here. 

There was a  little box of cherries that didn't taste like much and I decided to make an upside down cake with it. I thought I might be able to salvage the blandness of the fruit with a lemon scented batter mixed in with poppy seeds to give it a subtle nuttiness. But the sad little cherries on top shrivelled up and had zero flavour. I loved the batter, it was light with a hint of lemon and a soft, tender crumb. Once I picked out the cherries from the top, it was pretty great with a cup of coffee to start the day right. Definitely give this recipe a go, just get your hands on some great cherries (all my Indian peeps, American cherries are really expensive but they will be worth it in this cake).

Peach butter

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I planned a shoot for work and bought a whole bunch of fruits for food styling. And then promptly forgot about it like I tend to. So I entered the kitchen to find a swarm of fruit flies (agh, how do they magically appear? wait, i googled it and promise me you will never, ever do that because you might not eat fruits again.) hovering over the bowl of peaches and pears. After unsuccessfully dispersing them by waving a cloth around like a maniac for what seemed like an hour, I examined the fruits to find they were on the verge of going bad. So I debated whether to turn them into a pie, a cake or some sort of compote. I poked around the internet a bit and found a recipe for peach butter that looked simple enough for me to do while I baked for my orders and sat with the accounts team for our end of month meetings (please kill me).

Fruit butters (for those who might be not aware) is a spread made from fruits which is lightly sweetened. The difference between fruit spreads is consistency and same holds true for butters in comparison to jams and jellies. They are spreadable and therefore are called butters. You don't add any gelling agent like pectin or cook the fruits for too long otherwise they will lose their sweetness. Plus they are so easy to make that an absentminded klutz like me also had great success with it (the same cannot be said for the gingerbread biscotti that burned in the oven because I was busy researching fruit flies)

I had a kilo of peaches and around 2-3 pears. I decided to throw all of them together. You first drop the fruit in boiling water for about 45 seconds.and then dunk them in ice cold water. This helps the skin come right off. After that, you core and dice the fruits,  add some water and let it cook for about 30 minutes. Then you drop it in a food processor to make a puree. I like mine really smooth so I let it run for 3-4  minutes. Return it to the pan, add some sugar, lemon juice, spices (if you want, I used cinnamon+cloves) and let it cook down for 45 minutes. Thats it!

I ate mine with some plain yogurt and really, really liked it. You can drizzle it over ice cream or spread it on hot, buttered toast for an excellent breakfast or snack.


Peach butter

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Yield: 4 cups

1 kg peaches + 400 gm pears
1 cup water
2 cups brown sugar
Juice of one lemon

1/4 tsp cloves + 1/2 tsp cinnamon

 Cut a small “x” in the bottom of each peach. Dip each into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds, and then into a bowl of cold water for a minute. The peels should slide right off.

Halve your peaches and remove the pits, then cut each half into quarters Place peach chunks and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer until peaches are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to ensure they cook evenly. Puree in a food processor, blender or with an immersion blender. 

Return the peaches to the large pot, add the sugar, lemon juice and spiced. Bring the mixture to a good strong simmer/gentle boil, cooking them at this level for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring occasionally in the beginning and more often near the end, as it thickens up and the fruit masses risk scorching on the bottom of the pot.

There are several methods to test for doneness: You can drizzle a ribbon of sauce across the surface; when that ribbon holds its shape before dissolve into the pot, it is done or use cold or frozen plates; dollop a spoonful in the middle of one and if no water forms a ring around it in a couple minutes, it is done. 

Let peach butter cool. Keep it in an airtight container in the fridge. It should be good for at least two weeks.

 

Plum pistachio bars + my best friend's kid

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In my last conversation with my heavily pregnant best friend before she had her baby, she confided that she was looking forward to labour. Are you completely insane? was my response. She patiently explained that she felt this was the last rite of passage into womanhood, giving birth and she was excited about it. I insisted that she better take the epidural. She told me for the thousandth time that she didn't want one because she  knew her body could handle it and wanted to experience it the a la natural way. Sometimes I don't even know how we are friends, I mean I pop a pill at the hint of discomfort. We hung up and ten minutes later she promptly went into labour. I mean she should have asked for a million dollars while someone was granting her wishes. We would all be rich.

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I was chopping a mountain of rosemary for an order when I got the call that she had a girl! Without drugs but not without drama, the natural way. It was so exciting and scary that one of us was allowed to be a mother to a human. I swear just over three years ago, she had set my apartment on fire while we both slept in a drunken stupor. 

Its been a year since I became an auntie and I really adore my slightly bald, sweet faced niece. I like how she looks like a mini version of my friend with the same expressions and animated hand gestures. I love that she laughs with her head thrown back, how she rolls her eyes when she doesn't necessarily agree with the adults or how she says my name, Reeechaaa. So when I got the news that they were coming to Bombay for a visit, I wanted to squeeze in as much quality time together as possible and try to win her over to become her #1 aunt (a difficult task when she already has multiple stellar aunts). I would pop over to their place (they were staying at their family home) after work with freshly baked cookies. Aprameya (isn't it the prettiest name for a girl?) and I would play hide and seek while my best friend and I gossiped and polished off several bottles of wine between us.  It felt like we were living in the same city and for a little while our daily lives were overlapping. One day, I took my dogs over and we went for a walk on the Worli sea face.  They ran, chased birds, met other kids and dogs and we took about a hundred pictures of them. It was kind of perfect and I think Aprameya will agree.

I also found out that A and I have the same shared love for plums and decided to bake these bars up for her so that I can elbow out her other aunties to become her favourite.

Plums are one of my favourite fruits. I love their velvety skin, deep colour and tart, sweet flavour. I can eat a dozen standing up but always save some for baking because they are so good in cakes, pies and tarts. Its such a simple recipe that even an almost two year old could do it, provided you slice the plums, measure the ingredients and make sure they don't eat the said ingredients ;)  Deb uses apricots but I successfully replaced it with plums with fantastic results. It was rich, buttery and tangy plus sweet.

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Aprameya tried one and then turned to me and said, Don't like! Honestly, knife to my heart. But we demolished three between us and I can highly recommend these for all adults. Kids might sway either way. I will have to find another way to snag that favourite spot in the future.

Cherry poppy seed cake + JOMO

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I have to say that I am digging my 30s way more than I did my 20s. Even though two annoying strands of hair magically sprouted on my chin as soon as I turned 30 and my hangover lasts for a week, this decade is way more fun.There is overall less anxiety, I am finally comfortable with my jiggly thighs and stretch marked ass, I am lucky to be in a marriage that feels like a big sleepover and even though business is floundering, I love what I do and therefore don't mind failing at it until I get it right. 

I also know what I like (freshly brewed coffee, clean sheets, books, running on the beach with my dogs, chicken curry, yoga, small dinner parties, wine and chocolate) and what I don't (wet bathrooms, aggressive people, trifle pudding- yuck! I am specifically talking about ones made with store bought custard powder and red jello o, very popular in India. yuck, yuck, yuck! and pretty much anything related to Bollywood). So it's easier to say no to things I don't want to do and that has been the greatest gift of all this decade. JOMO or joy of missing out is a real thing and there is nothing I like more than sitting out social engagements that do very little for my mental stimulation and require a ton of effort.

Like the other night, a few friends were going out for a party. The thought of dressing up and spending hours in traffic to hang out in a noisy place was not what I had in mind for a chill Friday.  Instead, I put on my pyjamas and started mixing ingredients for a simple loaf cake. It was pretty therapeutic hanging out in the kitchen alone, listening to my morning jacket, chatting with my best friend and her one year old on the phone while sipping a glass of cheap ass wine.

The cake turned out great and I loved the combination of tart cherries with the nutty poppy seeds in a lemon scented batter. The whole thing is covered in a cinnamon oat streusel and baked for about forty minutes. The cake had a depth of flavour which I wasn't expecting and loved the crunchy bits of the streusel plus it was so easy to make.  I polished off three slices in lieu of dinner and patted myself for getting adulting right.


Cherry Poppy Seed Cake

One 9-inch (23cm) loaf

Adapted from Sweeter Off the Vine by

INGREDIENTS

Streusel

1/4 cup (35g) flour

2 tablespoons old-fashioned oats, rolled

2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons poppy seeds

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon or cardamom

pinch of salt

2 tablespoons butter salted or unsalted, at room temperature

Cake

1 1/2 cups (210g) flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder preferably aluminum-free

2 tablespoons poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (150g) granulated sugar

grated zest of 2 large lemons

1/2 cup (125ml) neutral vegetable oil such as canola or grapeseed

3 large eggs, room temperature

1 cup (225g) plain whole milk yogurt

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 1/2 cups (210g) pitted fresh cherries 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (180ºC). Butter a 9-inch (23cm) loaf pan, dust with flour, and tap out any excess.

2. Make the streusel by mixing the 1/4 cup flour, oats, brown sugar, poppy seeds, cinnamon or cardamom and salt in a small bowl. Add the butter and use your fingers to break the butter into small pieces, until the streusel is in small bits. Set aside.

3. To make the cake, whisk the flour, baking powder, poppy seeds and salt together in a small bowl.

4. In a large bowl, rub the sugar and lemon zest together very well with your fingers, encouraging the lemon oil to saturate the sugar. Whisk in the oil, eggs, yogurt and lemon juice. Add the flour mixture all at once, stirring with a rubber spatula until it’s almost completely incorporated. Fold in half of the cherries and scrape the batter into the prepared pan.

5. Dot the remaining cherries over the top and sprinkle with streusel. Bake the cake until golden brown on top and it feels set in the center, about 45 to 50 minutes. 

6. Let the cake cool on a wire rack. When cool, run a knife along the outside of the cake to help it release from the pan and tip the cake out of the pan.

Storage: The cake will keep for up to three days at room temperature, if well wrapped. You can freeze it for up to two months. 

Peach tart + what not to do while running a business

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A little advice for all you budding entrepreneurs out there. This is very specific to India because I have come to the slow but painful realisation that this country does not want you to succeed. Do I sound cynical? Maybe. But I have learned a few hard lessons over the last two years and thought it might be helpful for some of you out there struggling with similar issues.

1. Don't expect people to do the right thing. They never do. Demand it and make it happen even if they are kicking and screaming.

2. Don't be a pushover. There is a difference between being polite and being a pushover. In fact don't be afraid to be called an asshole. Because assholes get shit done.

3. Don't pay someone till the job is complete. Pay in instalments but only after the timelines are met. Never, ever fall for their sob story. 

4. Don't play the victim card. It's the worst. Own up your shitty decisions, learn from them and move on.

5. Don't be in love with your product. Be in love with your customer. And do everything to make their life better. We get so caught up in the product or service we have created that we forget the true purpose: have a satisfied customer by making their life easier. Keep that as a singular objective.

Now, that I have bummed everyone out there collectively, lets talk about this peach tart. I first came across this easy recipe in Amanda Hesser's book, Cooking for Mr. Latte. I immediately fell in love with her voice and wanted to make every single thing she had listed in the book. Since then, a lot of her recipes are part of my cooking repertoire (chicken salad, almond cake, chicken with sour cream) because they are big on flavour. This peach tart has made an appearance at housewarming parties, birthday or a regular weeknight when you need a little distraction.

The steps are simple, you stir together the dough in a mixing bowl and gently press it into your tart shell. There is no kneading or rolling required. Arrange thick slices of peaches in the shell and then add the crumble topping. That't it.

I had a string of little failures at work and to keep myself from dissolving into a puddle of angry tears (its not a pretty sight), I baked this peach tart. It was a good distraction even though it was brief and it was much, much easier to console myself with a slice of this juicy, delicious tart.


PEACH TART

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/4cup mild olive oil
  • 2tablespoons whole milk
  • 1/2teaspoon almond extract
  • 2tablespoons cold, unsalted butter
  • 3small ripe peaches (up to 5), pitted and thickly sliced (about 1/2-inch wide)

METHOD

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a mixing bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Stirring enables the salt and sugar to sift the flour, so you don’t need to sift it in advance. In a small bowl, whisk together the oils, milk and almond extract. Pour this mixture into the flour mixture and mix gently with a fork, just enough to dampen; do not over work it. Then, transfer the dough to an 11-inch tart pan (you can use a smaller one if needed), and use your hands to pat out the dough so it covers the bottom of the pan, pushing it up the sides to meet the edge. This will work if you pat firmly and confidently, but not if you curl your fingertips into the dough. It should be about 1/ 8-inch thick all around; trim and discard excess dough.
  2. In a bowl, combine 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, 1/4 teaspoon salt and the butter. (If your peaches are especially juicy, add 1 tablespoon additional flour.) Using your fingers, pinch the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly, with a mixture of fine granules and tiny pebbles.
  3. Starting on the outside, arrange the peaches overlapping in a concentric circle over the pastry; fill in the center in whatever pattern makes sense. The peaches should fit snugly. Sprinkle the pebbly butter mixture over top (it will seem like a lot). Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until shiny, thick bubbles begin enveloping the fruit and the crust is slightly brown. Cool on a rack. Serve warm or room temperature, preferably with generous dollops of whipped cream.
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Apple pecan danish braid

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I have been listening to a bunch of great podcasts during the endless hours I spend commuting from Juhu to Dadar (For readers who are not from Bombay, a distance of 11 km or 6 miles approximately takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours because of traffic) which has been instrumental in me not slitting my wrists in the backseat of my Uber.  One of my favourite podcast is Science of Success and covers a range of topics from how to negotiate to paradox of happiness, based on years of research on human psychology. 

Recently, I heard one about creating memorable moments. The idea is that we all practice different rituals to mark  moments like birthdays, weddings, graduation but might miss a few other important ones. Like starting a new job or breaking up with a significant other. This leads to difficult transitions. Or we get stuck in routines and therefore the days sort of blur together. Our long term memory will only recall significant moments like your first kiss or the first time you moved to a new city. Therefore, its important to create moments to break the monotony or honour a change in your life. 

A friend is going through a divorce and I wanted to do something for her apart from lending an ear. I remember her wedding was an opulent affair which went on for days and yet only a few people awkwardly acknowledged her divorce which according to me was a big cause for celebration because her soon to be ex husband was a giant ass. So, I decided to have a little divorce party with a few of our close friends to let her vent and then all of us proceeded to get totally shit faced. Because you get divorced only once (hopefully, fingers crossed) and you need several pitchers of margarita to mark the end. And a whole string of curse words to toast.

I also made her this amazing apple danish braid to help her with the hangover the morning after. Or maybe it was for me since I crashed face first on her couch. Give this a go when you have two days to spare, it is a BIG baking project and only take this on if you want a challenge, are super bored or trying to celebrate an important day/event. I have included a detailed recipe below with clear instructions but because I do better with visuals, here is a link to help you with braiding the danish and another one to help you better understand how to seal the butter and do the double turns. Hope you guys give this a go, if for nothing else to break the monotony of routine.

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Apple frangipane danish braid

Danish dough

  • All purpose flour   570  gm
  • salt                7 gm
  • eggs              100 gm
  • milk               225 gm
  • SAF yeast    10 gm
  • sugar        55 gm
  • ground cardamom     a pinch
  • butter           340 gm

Apple filling-

  • Apples 170 gm
  • butter 115 gm
  • sugar 225 gm
  • lemon zest 4 gm
  • dark rum 55 gm 
  • cinnamon 3 gm
  • currants 170 gm
  • chopped pecan 170 gm

Almond frangipane-

  • Almond paste  455 gm
  • sugar 285 gm
  • butter, softened 455 gm
  • eggs 425 gm
  • lemon zest 2 gm
  • vanilla 13 gm
  • all purpose flour 140 gm
  • baking powder 4 gm

Sliced almonds for topping- 100 gms

Method for danish

  1. Whisk milk, yeast and eggs together in a bowl of a standing mixer.
  2. Add the flour, sugar, cardamom and salt.
  3. Mix on 1st speed with dough hook for 3 minutes.
  4. Transfer the dough to the bench and knead it by hand to tighten. Wrap in plastic and let it rest in the fridge for an hour
  5. Flour parchment paper, chop butter lengthwise into roughly 115 gm pieces. Flour the butter lightly and cover with parchment paper. Beat with rolling pin to soften and flatten. Shape it into a rectangle. 
  6. Make sure the butter is roughly 2/3 the size of the dough. Keep corners intact
  7. Roll out dough to form a rectangle. Don't let the dough get more than 10-12 inches wide.
  8. Brush off the excess flour from the dough and mark about 2/3 of the dough. Place the butter on the 2/3 portion of the dough and trim any edges. The butter should be cold yet malleable (you might have to keep sticking in the fridge for short periods of time)
  9. Fold 1/3 of the dough over. Brush off flour and fold the other 1/3 over keeping the edges neat and tight. 
  10. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and flour it up. Hit the ends to seal the dough and bang it down. Roll the dough out, keeping the edges neat, tight and not too long or thin. The dough should be about 3 1/2 feet long.
  11. Brush off the flour and double turn. Sealing the two ends when you bring them to the middle. 
  12. Roll it out a little and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest in fridge between turns if needed.
  13. Repeat the double turn. Flour the dough and triple wrap in plastic. Let dough rest overnight in refrigerator.

Method for frangipane

  1. Combine almond paste, sugar and softened butter in mixer with paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until smooth.
  2. Beat in the eggs, a few at a time. Mix until smooth.
  3. Add the lemon zest and vanilla, stir to combine.
  4. Combine flour and baking powder and add to the mixing bowl beating on low speed, just until the flour is absorbed.

Method for apple filling

  1. Peel, core and cut apples into wedges.
  2. Place apples and all other ingredients into a large pan. Cook over medium heat, covered until the apples begin to soften.
  3. Uncover and continue to cook until liquid is evaporated.
  4. Chill until ready to use.

Method for danish braid and assembling

  1. Roll the dough to a 12 inch square and place on parchment lines sheet pan. Mark dough into 3 strips, each 4 inches wide and 12 inches long. Slash the two outermost strips diagonally at 1/2 inch intervals, making downward slashes.
  2. Spread frangipane on the centre strip. Top the frangipane with apple filling. Fold the slashes over the centre strip, alternating a slash from each side. Proof braid 50% in a warm place, for about an hour.
  3. Brush egg white on the pastry and strew with sliced almonds. Bake at 204 degrees C for about 15 minutes.  Let it cool for 30 minutes
  4. Slice and serve warm with a scoop of ice cream.

Better than Nutella

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Picture my morning: I woke up at 6, did an hour of yoga, made a fresh cup of coffee which I sipped slowly with a bowl of creamy porridge. It was raining outside, the dogs were curled up next to me, it was all languid and lovely. Finally, I peeled myself off the bed and turned on the geyser to take a  hot shower before heading to work. I think I might even have been humming something (i never, ever sing because honest to god I cant carry a tune and i can't even tolerate my own singing) when my shower turned into my own personal hell. It started smelling like poop and  with mounting panic and horror I realised that yes, I was in fact bathing with sewage water!!! It was mucky and brown and smelled like twenty cats had inhaled rotten fish and died in a pile of poop. SERIOUSLY, HOW THE FUCK WAS THIS EVEN HAPPENING?!

I turned the shower off screaming and emptied half a bottle of shower gel on myself and then grabbed a bottle of water from my bedroom to wash the filth off. All the cursing and yelling lead to waking up my dogs who proceeded to lose their shit and joined me by barking at the top of their lungs (they are beagles!) in turn waking up my entire household who came running to my rescue to find me butt naked, scrubbing my skin furiously with a towel.

Turns out the water pipes have crossed and the clean water/sewage water are hanging out together. This led to a lot of screaming and yelling at several men in the Bombay Municipal Corporation and buying litres of bottles water to use for cleaning and drinking. People are trying to fix the problem while I have taken two showers since at my friend's place trying to get the grossness off me. Seriously, why oh why do I live in this damn city? 

I know its really weird to talk about chocolate spread in the same post I have talked about sewage. But there really is no appetising way to segue into this except this chocolate spread is so good that it will help you forget the horrors of your day. Its better than Nutella. Chocolatey, deeply nutty and super delicious. I found this recipe and it sounded so good that made it almost immediately. You will want a jar of this hanging around in your kitchen for breakfasts, snacks or for when you have the worst day of you life. It really helps to eat it in big spoonfuls, straight from the jar. 

Orange muffins with pistachio drizzle

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When I was an intern at a television production house in DC in 2007, my only aim was to secure a permanent position at the end of my internship so that I could continue to stay in America. We were around 5 interns and only 2 positions were available so everyone brought their A game to work. We were the yes interns. We were up for anything: helping editors late into the night with the scripts, coffee runs, filing and organising every boring administrative project, 6 am call times, lifting heavy equipment and even pretending to workout to keep up with our very fit German boss who at the age of 65 still biked 10 miles to work everyday. If all this wasn't enough, I started baking to really one up my fellow interns. It didn't matter what time I got back to my aunt's house (she was kind enough to put me up, do my laundry and feed me chicken curry when I got really home sick), I would make a batch of cookies, a bundt cake or muffins to bring into work the next day.

Suddenly everyone knew my name, even our aloof boss Andre. He would thank me profusely for whatever I brought in and made sure to stop by the pantry every morning to check if there were any goodies. I used a few recipes on repeat and more often than not, I turned to my favourite, Ina Garten. Her orange chocolate bundt cake was fantastic and I would bake it often in muffin tins to spare everyone the messiness of slicing and cleaning up afterwards. The bright, zingy citrus flavour married really well with that of the rich, decadent chocolate and it was hard to just eat one. 

I would like to think it was my hard work and smarts that finally landed me the job at the end of summer but I'd be lying. It was most definitely the muffins. I have been baking some version of the recipe for years now and was happy to stumble upon this one. It was easy, light and tasted as good as Ina's. Give either of the recipe a go if you need a little pick me up or impress your boss. 


Orange Muffins- adapted from pretty.simple.sweet

Yields: 12 standard-sized muffins

Ingredients

  • 150g granulated sugar
  • 1 ½ tablespoon orange zest
  • 250g all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup  freshly squeezed and strained orange juice
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup add-in of your choice: dark or white chocolate chips, berries, raisins, nuts

Pistachio Topping (optional)- adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons orange juice
  • 50 gm pistachio (shelled)
  • 1 tsp orange zest

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 190C. Grease 6-8  muffin cups or line them with liner papers.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together sugar and orange zest. Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix to combine. In another medium bowl, whisk eggs with oil, buttermilk, orange juice, and vanilla extract until well combined. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it, then stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula just until combined. Do not over mix. Fold in add-ins if you are using any.
  3. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups (almost all the way to the top). Bake for 15-20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove muffins from the tin and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  4. To make the pistachio topping: In a small pan, add all the ingredients and let it come to a simmer on low heat. Once muffins have cooled, pour glaze over the tops using a tablespoon, letting it drizzle down the sides.

Brioche doughnuts

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I fell in love with doughnuts at a gas station somewhere off the autobahn in Germany. Karan (my ex-boyfriend/husband), Mike(our friend) and I were driving to Switzerland from Paris for a music festival. We had rented the world's teeniest car which was powder blue in colour and stinking cute but could barely fit the three of us. I am the shortest so was stuffed in the back along with the luggage while the two 6 feet tall boys climbed in the front with their long limbs folded at awkward angles. Needless to say we were the slowest car on the autobahn and soon need to make a stop just to stretch. While the boys used the loo, I grabbed an espresso and a box of pfannkuchen from a vending machine(seriously, i haven't eaten vending machine food since college) because it sounded super cute and I was intrigued. I found a sunny spot and opened the box to find three medium sized doughnut holes rolled in sugar looking rather delicious. I was a bit disappointed because not a doughnut fan but I took a tentative bite because I wasn't about to waste 5 euros. To my surprise, this was unlike any doughnut I had eaten in America which always tasted really sweet, doughy and dense. These doughnut holes were sublime with a rich, slightly sweet, yeasty dough filled with a tart plum jam that melted in my mouth.  Mike and Karan came back to find me covered in a thin layer of sugar and running back to the vending machine for another box.

I didn't know back then that Germans take baking very, very seriously. And doughnut is a favourite. Its tradition to eat doughnuts on new year's eve to mark start the year on a sweet note and it's common practical joke to hide a mustard filled doughnut among the delicious jelly ones.

These doughnuts are my riff on the German ones I tasted a few years back. I used a brioche dough and filled it with a plum jam that we sell at Sustenance which is gently spiced with cinnamon and cloves. We shared these in the kitchen during coffee break and for the first time in the day, every member of my team shut up and went for seconds. Give these a go and you will never go back for a store bought one.


Brioche doughnuts

- Recipe fromChef Sim Cass ,Institute of Culinary Education.

  • All purpose flour   910 gm
  • butter        225 gm
  • eggs        450 gm
  • milk        155 gm
  • salt           14gm
  • sugar       55 gm
  • SAF GOLD yeast   14 gm
  • Plum jam for filling (or any jam of your choice)- 120 gm
  • Caster sugar- 100 gm (to roll the doughnuts in)

Method

  1. Combine milk and yeast in a mixing bowl and whisk. Let it sit for 5 minutes till the yeast is activated and bubbles form on the surface of milk.
  2. Add eggs, salt, sugar and flour to the mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes with a dough hook attachment. Then mix on high speed for 3 minutes.
  3. Cut really cold butter in small cubes. Keep it in the fridge if it starts to melt. Butter has to be really cold before you incorporate into the dough.
  4. Add butter slowly into the dough while the dough continues to mix. Mix for 12-15 minutes and near the end, scrape down the sides.
  5. Scrape dough into a a bowl that has been oiled lightly and cover it with plastic wrap.
  6. Allow the dough to sit for an hour at room temperature. 
  7. Refrigerate dough overnight.
  8. Next day, remove dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.
  9. Lightly flour your work surface. Cut brioche into 80 or 100 gm pieces. Flatten each piece into a rectangle then fold the edges to the centre. Flip it over and gently roll it into a ball. Repeat till you have 12- 14 doughnuts. Gently transfer the rounds to a parchment lined baking sheet with about 1 inch of space between them. 
  10. Lightly cover the brioche with plastic wrap and let the dough proof for 1 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.
  11. Heat about 2 L of vegetable or canola oil in a very large saucepan or soup pot to 185 C. Once the oil has reached the correct temperature, start frying the doughnuts one or two at a time. Fry each side for about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the oil and let cool on a wire rack. 
  12. Dip the doughnuts into sugar and roll it around to cover both sides.
  13.  Transfer the jam you are using to a piping bag fitted with a small circular tip. Poke a small hole in the side of the doughnut and insert the piping tip. Pipe the jam into the doughnut until you feel a little bit of resistance. When you remove the piping tip, the jam should come out a little. Serve immediately.
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Brownie crinkle cookies + thoughts on identity

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I only started contemplating my identity when I was around 30 years old. I was working as an assistant director in an advertising production house and every time someone asked me what I did, I had trouble spelling it out. I wasn't really into my job, I kind of just did it in the hope of working as a director one day and maybe feeling fulfilled then. I had also recently gotten married and felt super awkward describing my relationship status. I am from a small town in Bihar, a state that the rest of the country looks down upon. Kind of like the red neck of America. I didn't give a damn what people thought of my background but I had left the town when I was 11 years old for boarding school in Rajashthan, all the way on the west coast of our country. I didn't really feel like I identified with anyone back home or for that matter, people in my school. I had spend my college years in America and identified with a lot of my friends there. So when someone asked where I was from and what I did, it would result in a super long, winded monologue that left my audience confused.

But over the years, I made a few changes and have narrowed a few things down. I am a baker, a feminist, a woman with a mishmash of Indian- American cultural beliefs, struggling entrepreneur, clumsy,  terrible keeper of secrets, life enthusiast, reluctant resident of Bombay and a rebel in progress. I am also obsessed with dark chocolate and pretty sure I need to disclose that bit as soon as I meet someone. These cookies are a good way to make my introduction.

I love Edd Kimber and stalk him on every social media platform so when he posted a recipe for these cookies, I decided to bake them the very same day. They are super simple to bake and the only thing you need to keep in mind is that the quality of chocolate and dutch processed cocoa powder is great. I loved the fact that this didn't require any chilling and you can have fresh cookies straight from the oven in under 25 minutes (that includes the cooking time!). 

I have tried a few versions of brownie cookies but these are by far my favourite, intensely fudgy, rich in chocolate flavour and delicious. I would recommend a glass of milk to wash these down with.

 

Apple strudel

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Oh my god! This was the most fun baking project I did in the last few months. I was in the kitchen  yesterday and while waiting for batches of granola to cool down to ship for an order, I came across a recipe for strudel dough while flipping through the recipe binder from culinary school. I vaguely remembered stretching the dough to paper thin consistency in school with my fellow students while chatting about the surprise engagement of one of the girls from Mexico whose boyfriend proposed on top of Brooklyn bridge.

Apple strudel is an oblong pastry jacket with apple filling and breadcrumbs. It's a traditionally Viennese pastry but very popular in different parts of Europe.  Its an unleavened dough which is mixed by hand till it is of wet consistency and is kneaded by banging against a table and folding it in for 100 times to develop the gluten in the flour.  The dough rests for an hour and then rolled on a big table and pulled gently till its paper thin. It sounds far more complicated than it really is. You should enlist the help of a friend or family member because its a lot of fun to stretch the dough while you are catching up. 

I caught hold of Ramesh, my fellow baker and coworker and got him to help me. We chatted about his recent trip to his ancestral village, the best way to cook mutton curry (in a clay pot with lots and lots of ghee and sealed off with dough to cook for several hours) and my business partner's upcoming wedding. It so therapeutic to gently pull the dough with the back of our hands so as not to tear it and then pinching the dough together when we did. I had a loaf of bread I baked lying around which I toasted and then turned it into breadcrumbs and sliced and chopped a few apples and marinated it with lemon juice, cinnamon powder, cloves, vanilla bean paste and brown sugar. You spread the breadcrumbs in an even layer across the width of the dough, pile on the apples neatly and then roll the dough tightly.

It baked up perfectly and the pastry had thin layers that shattered when you bite into it with a cinnamon lemon scented apple filling which was just perfect with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Its best the day its baked but you can reheat it in the oven for upto 2-3 days.


Apple strudel recipe

Strudelteig (hand-pulled strudel dough)- Recipe fromChef Sim Cass ,Institute of Culinary Education.

  • High gluten flour (I used all purpose)    397 gm
  • salt        7 gm
  • eggs    100 gm
  • oil        14 gm
  • warm water    186 gm

Apple filling- Recipe adapted from Luisa Weiss's Classic German Baking and Smitten Kitchen.

  • 6-7 firm apples 
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 65 grams brown sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 60 grams plain, unseasoned dried breadcrumbs 
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 80 gm  raisins (soaked overnight in water or 2 tablespoon of rum)
  • 10 tablespoons melted butter (4 for breadcrumbs + 6 for dough)

Method

  1. Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
  2. Beat the eggs and oil with a whisk in another mixing bowl. Add warm water to the egg oil mixture.
  3. Stir the liquid into the flour with a rubber spatula, making sure that no flour sticks to the side of the bowl. The dough will be fairly soft.
  4. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. Pick the dough up and slam it against the surface forcefully. It should make a loud noise. Fold the dough back on itself, and pick it up again from the side, detaching it from the surface with a bench scraper. Flour the surface and your hands lightly if the dough is sticking. Repeat this motion 100 times ( I did 200 times because I used all purpose flour and it took longer to develop the gluten) until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Oil a small bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it over, so that the top is oiled. Press plastic wrap against the surface of the dough and rest the dough at room temperature for about an hour or so.  Refrigerate the dough if its to be held longer than  half a day. If the dough was refrigerated, et it come to room temperature before proceeding.
  6. Cover a rectangular table (30 by 48 inches is ideal) with a cloth. Generously flour the cloth.
  7. Place the dough in the center of the cloth, making sure not to fold the dough at all while removing it from the bowl. Flour the dough and roll it as thin as possible with a rolling pin. Brush oil lightly on the surface of the dough.
  8. Pull the dough from the center outward, stretching the dough over the back of the hands, fingers folded under. When the dough becomes fairly thin, let it rest for a few minutes.
  9. Prepare the breadcrumbs: In a small skillet over medium-low heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter and add the breadcrumbs, sugar and salt. Stir to coat and cook, stirring frequently as they can burn quickly, until crumbs are an even golden brown and very fragrant. Don’t let them burn.
  10. Assemble strudel: Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C. Brush evenly with about half the melted butter. On the right side of the rectangle, a few inches from the end, spread the breadcrumbs top to bottom in a thick line, leaving a little more than an inch margin at the top and bottom of the strip. 

  11. Scoop the apples with a slotted spoon, leaving any accumulated juices in the bowl, and pile them over the crumbs. Gently pull the top and bottom edges of the dough over the apple mixture. Pull the right edge of the dough up and over the filling as far as it will go without tearing. Working carefully, use the towel to roll up the strudel all the way. Place the parchment paper from your baking sheet at the edge of the roll and roll the strudel onto it. Ideally, it should be breadcrumb side-down on the parchment, you can roll it again if it’s not. Use the parchment like a sling to gently place the strudel on the baking sheet.

  12. Brush the strudel generously all over with some of the remaining butter. Bake for 15 minutes, then brush again and return to the oven in a rotated position. Repeat this once, baking a total of 45 minutes. The finished strudel should be crisp to the touch and a deep golden brown.

  13. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let cool on a rack for at least 20 minutes before serving. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and slice into pieces to serve. Highly recommend pairing it with lightly whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Sesame seed bread

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I baked this loaf of sesame bread from Josey Baker's excellent bread baking book. I loved his voice and writing style with very clear and easy instructions. Reading it will make you feel like he is standing over your shoulders and gently encouraging you to get the technique right while cracking a few jokes.

I made the load over the course of three days while I was baking batches of granola for a massive order at work. The long rise really helped to deepen the flavour with a tough of sourness. A generous amount of toasted sesame seeds is added to the dough and after shaping, rolled on the outside as well which gives it a super nutty flavour. Pair it with salted butter ( I used good old Amul butter) and jam to enjoy a stellar breakfast or snack. 

Chelsea buns

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I am a big fan of sweet buns. Whether they are plain, filled with nuts and fruits, cinnamon or chocolate and are often glazed with topping or icing. They make or a lovely breakfast or tea. Go to almost any part of the world and you will find a bun thats unique to that particular culture. Cinnamon buns, swedish buns, cream buns, hot cross buns, pain aux raisin, bun muska and many, many more. Everyone loves them. They are made with yeast leavened dough using eggs, milk and butter which produces a buttery, rich roll.

With a little planning, you can have warm buns straight from the oven and will never go back to the store bought kinds. These are traditional English buns, named after a famous 18th century bun house in London which counted the Royal family as one of its patrons. These small, soft, sweet buns are an English institution and made using flour, butter, milk and eggs. Its is filled with sugar, raisins and the dough has lemon zest, cardamom and cinnamon.

I learned to bake a batch from an Englishman, Chef Sim Cass, a truly fun and patient teacher. He expertly instructed us while we made the dough, rolled it out, filled and shaped it. I was taken aback by the quanitty of melted butter brushed on top of the buns before popping in the oven but kept my mouth shut to avoid getting made fun of by my fellow students. You sprinkle more sugar on the hot buns as soon as they are pulled out of the oven. We ate them still warm with cups of coffee while standing around our work bench and savoured every single, delicious bite. 

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Chelsea buns

- Recipe fromChef Sim Cass ,Institute of Culinary Education.

  • All purpose flour     765  gm
  • butter (at room temperture & cut into cubes)             200 gm
  • eggs                        140 gm
  • milk                          355 gm
  • salt                           6 gm
  • granulated sugar     130 gm
  • SAF GOLD yeast      14 gm
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • nutmeg powder     1 gm
  • melted butter        115 gm
  • currants or raisins (soaked in water overnight and drained)  170 gm
  • cinnamon              8 gm
  • brown sugar           170 gm
  • egg wash
  • granulated sugar for finishing

Method

  1. Add flour and nutmeg to a mixing bowl with paddle attachment. Add butter, sugar and salt to it and mix on low speed for 3 minutes. Continue to mix until the dough is sandy.
  2. Warm milk to 37 degrees C and whisk in yeast (the milk shouldn't be hotter because it will kill the yeast otherwise). Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Whisk eggs in a separate bowl to break them and then whisk it into the milk-yeast mixture.
  4. Add the eggs-milk mixture with lemon zest to the mixing bowl. Switch to a dough hook and mix for 3 minutes on low speed. Increase to medium speed and mix for an additional 3 minutes. Now mix on high speed for 3 minutes.
  5. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it rest at room temperate for 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  6. Lightly flour your work surface and preheat oven to 204 degrees C.
  7. After the dough has rested and doubled in size, roll it gently into a rectangle (12 by 16 inches)
  8. Egg wash along one 12 inch edge
  9. Brush melted butter over the remained of the dough generously.
  10. Mix cinnamon and brown sugar in a separate bowl together, making sure there are no lumps. Sprinkle it generously over dough except the strip that has been egg washed.
  11. Sprinkle drained currants or raisins over dough on top of the cinnamon sugar evenly.
  12. Roll top over towards the egg washed end and tuck under and keep rolling. Seal at end. Elongate slightly to make sure the roll is even but do not stretch the dough. Roll should be around 2 1/2 inches in diameter.
  13. Cut slices about 1 1/2 inches apart and place on a parchment lined sheet pan, arranged tightly together.
  14. Brush tops with melted butter generously.
  15. Let it proof in a slightly warm place until it doubles in size. Approximately 45 minutes.
  16. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
  17. As soon as buns come out of the oven, brush the tops with melted butter once again and sprinkle granulated sugar on top to finish. Serve warm.

Sourdough bread

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Growing up in India has a lot of perks: plethora of cousins to play with, grandparents who fuss over you, flying kites with the neighbour's kids, aunts and uncles who bribe you with sweets just to keep your mouth shut, street cricket and incredible food. But what we don't grow up with is good bread. And frankly, that's fine. Because we are a culture that has fantastic local breads which make me go weak in the knees even today. But all we had available for toast every morning was the sad white, limp bread in multicoloured plastic bags that were readily available at every corner grocery store of our little town. I thought they were pretty great toasted and golden brown with a layer of really sweet Kissan mixed fruit jam. That was until I had my first taste of real sourdough bread which happened when I was 15 years old. 

We were on a family vacation in Italy and went to a local trattoria( my foodie uncle picked the place because left to the rest of my family, we would  have ended up with pizza or Chinese food) for lunch in Rome. It was a bustling place, packed with locals speaking in Italian and gesticulating a lot. Our waiter placed down a basket of bread even before handing us the menu. This bread looked very different than the white bread I was used to. This bread had character with a hard crust and soft, chewy interior and an unusually large crumb. Large enough that all my cousins and I took turns looking through it much to the dismay of my sophisticated uncle. My brother was the first one to have a taste. He followed the locals and tipped some olive oil on to his plate followed by a few drops of balsamic vinegar (two gleaming bottles were present at very table) and mopped up the leopard print concoction with a slice of bread. He proceeded to close his eyes and moan grossly. I was intrigued and imitated my brother and ohmygod it had so much flavour and texture- soft, chewy with a touch of sourness but which was pleasing to the palette and rounded with excellent olive oil and sweetness from the balsamic. We were hooked and inhaled two bread baskets before even ordering lunch.

Its been several years since and I regularly bake my own sourdough with a starter I have managed to keep alive for a few months ( I have also killed over 10 of them so fingers crossed!). Sourdough bread is made from dough that has been leavened naturally using active yeast instead of store bought commercial ones and is a labour of love like anything worth doing in life should be. You make a starter with flour, water, few drops of honey and couple of unwashed grapes. You let it sit for a day and then discard half the starter with the grapes and feed it with equal amounts of water and flour. You repeat the steps for a week before your starter is alive and healthy and you can use it to bake bread. Here is a great resource and recipe for you to get started on your first loaf of bread. Fair warning, its hard to go back to white bread once you have tasted your first slice of sourdough.

 

Pear oatmeal scones

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Whenever I feel crappy, I bake. The concentration and effort helps me take my mind off whatever I am stressing about and I feel infinitely better when I am stuffing my face with something warm and delicious afterwards. This morning we lost the house we were hoping to rent in Goa. It had four bedrooms, a garden, a balcony and a terrace! For someone living in a teeny apartment in Bombay, it was perfect! I was already daydreaming about baking in the kitchen and watching my dogs run around the garden. We were flying at the end of the month to close the deal. So fucking close. Gaah!

So I baked instead of yelling at my broker or snapping at my better half. There were pears in the kitchen, some oat flour and a handful of pecans. I threw in the odds and ends together but ended up with a surprisingly tender scone, not too sweet and gently spiced.

Armed with these and coffee, I am going back to find myself a dreamy little house.

 


Spiced pear oatmeal scones

Yields 8 scones

2 cups oat flour
100 grams granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
90 grams butter, cut into small pieces
3 large ripe pears, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
1/2 cup pecans,chopped
1/3 cup full fat milk

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together oat flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender or your hands until mixture resembles coarse sand. Stir in pecans and pear chunks. Set aside.

In a small bowl, beat together egg, vanilla, and cream. Pour over the scone batter and lightly mix until the dough comes together. The dough will be sticky.

Turn out dough on a lightly floured surface, form a circle, and flatten it until it is about 1-inch thick. Using a sharp knife dipped in flour, cut 8 equal pie wedges (the dough will be slightly unmanageable, but not adding additional flour results in tender scones). Transfer scones to a baking sheet using a flat spatula and sprinkle the tops of the scones with a little granulated sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Kindred's milk bread

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I love Food52 like scores of other people because its such a treasure trove of recipes, articles, trends and gorgeous kitchenware! I came across this recipe and wanted to make it almost immediately. I am a sucker for brioche like doughs with their rich, buttery crumb and wanted to give it a spin with the addition of cream and milk powder. This loaf of bread was so easy to pull together and is infinitely versatile, just like a brioche. You can make sandwiches, french toast, bread pudding, doughnuts, burger buns and much more. 

I toasted mine and paired with some butter and homemade marmalade, a gift from my sweet brother who knows I'm addicted to his jams and preserves. The bread was so damn good that I gave away the rest of the loaf to stop my thighs from expanding.