Chocolate truffle cake

Chocolate truffle cake

The inspiration behind this beautiful cake is Jagan. The reason for this beautiful cake is my sister. The creator of this beautiful recipe is not me. Must be a genius at bbcgoodfood who came up with this recipe. Where (Why) do I come in? The maker of this beautiful cake is me. The one who made this cake from start to finish, the one who peeled the parchment paper off an un-chilled super-moist cake before transferring to cake board and paid hell, the one who made indigenous crème fraiche substituting a substitute for a substitute, the one who forgot to add in the said indigenous crème fraiche and then swirled it in the cake pans.  Still, this cake was stunning, in-spite of all the madness. I write this to tell you what not to do in making this gorgeous cake, and to tell you that even the hand-mixer wielding, Amul fresh cream using, birthday baker like you and me can make this cake. And you will be known ever after as the one who makes the best chocolate truffle cake. Recently at a coffee shop, Jagan asked me why I’ve never made Chocolate truffle cake like the one they have there. Why? I didn’t know. So I set out to make one. My sister’s birthday was the right occasion for a Chocolate truffle cake because it was the one coming up next. Then I found this recipe. I figured you couldn’t go wrong with 800 grams of chocolate plus cocoa and more than a pound of butter. I immediately decided this was the recipe I was going to go with. This is my best chocolate cake so far and it is going to be my new most favourite chocolate cake to make for a long time to come. It turned out absolutely fantastic – rich, fudgy-moist and so so chocolatey interlaced with velvety chocolate frosting and finished off with a luscious smooth chocolate ganache. Oh My! Perfection!  Make this for Valentine’s day, for a birthday or for a celebration. It is a special occassion cake.  

Shahi Paneer

Somebody please explain to me what’s with all the Halloween themed dress up parties here in India, spooky deserts and special Halloween themed menus at restaurants. I am at a loss here. I understand Indians living abroad dressing up their kids and showcasing for us on facebook. They’ve got to get along. But here in India? Why ya? There is only so much pumpkin spice anybody can take. And you guys do know we get pumpkin all year round around here. Does Kasi Halwa ring any bell?     I am not on the beef banning side, mind you, in case you start to think I am a saffron propagandist. I am all for embracing other cultures but I really wish we were more aware of our own rituals and festivals.  Embrace local. Take pride. Learn about them or they may be lost forever until Americans patent them and National geographic makes a documentary. Did you know about the Maasana Kollai festival? I bet 8 out of 10 wouldn’t know. It is an ancient Tamil ritual that is at once scary and fascinating. Dr. Lakshmi, our family friend often recounted tales of how she’d stay up all night during Shivaratri playing Dhaaya kattai with her sisters and cousins. It sounded like fun but I have never stayed up during Shivaratri. I don’t stay up for New year’s eve either. I generally don’t stay up. When I was a little girl, still in school, we once went to the beach during Chitra-pournami in a huge group of family and friends with a big picnic hamper of lemon rice, tamarind rice, curd rice, vadam, mor milagai and maavadu. It was a fun outing. I wish I’d stayed up for shivaratri, I’d woken up for Vaikunta yegadesi, accompanied my mother for the golu round-ups and learnt to make adhirasam from Ammama. I wish I’d slept less.  You know what I’ve been making lately? I didn’t make pumpkin spice anything, you’d know. Bread toast and bulls eye. I can’t seem to tire of it, ever. I can safely say I’ve mastered it. One of the days, I made Shahi paneer along with mushroom pulav for Hasini’s lunch. I’ve unknowingly reared a paneer fiend here. The little girl will order paneer anything anywhere anyday. So paneer finds its way into our menu at least once every week. This is a Sanjeev kapoor’s version of Shahi paneer, minus...

Best chocolate frosting ever

Ok, I don’t like American buttercream. Who does anyway? There are those who say they love American buttercream. I can’t understand them. I don’t suppose they’ll understand my cheese cube with lemon & honey routine or why I like to dip vadai into payasam. Does that gross you out? You don’t understand what you’re missing. American buttercream is way too sweet and never smooth enough for me. I have been on the lookout for smooth, silky, not too sweet frosting recipes forever. Just like I’ve always been on the lookout for a good tailor, just like my mother is perpetually on the lookout for a good house-help. This chocolate frosting is bang on. It is smooth, velvety, just sweet enough and gorgeous on just about anything. I will take the extra effort, cook the milk, sugar and cocoa down to a pudding, strain it even, melt the chocolate, chill everything up and wait till everything chills before beating them together, all for this beauty. The most difficult part for me is waiting while these components chill. It is slow and excruciating. But once chilled, it thickens up nicely and pipes like a dream. It is best to take small portions of this frosting in the piping bag at any time while putting the rest into the refrigerator while you work to keep the frosting nice and chill. Prep time: 45 minsCooking time: 10 minsMakes: enough to frost 15 cupcakes Ingredients Good quality dark Chocolate – 80 gm (I used Bourneville)Milk – 1 cup (230 gm)Maida/All purpose flour – 1/3 cup (43 gm)Cocoa powder – 3 tbspGranulated white sugar – 2/3 cup (134 gm)Salt – pinchUnsalted Butter – ½ cup (113 gm) Method 1.       Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Remove from heat, stir till the chocolate is nice and smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. 2.       In a saucepan, combine cocoa, maida and salt and whisk well. To this add milk slowly whisking till all the dry ingredients are incorporated. Add sugar to the saucepan and place on stove. Cook on low heat whisking constantly. The mixture will thicken slowly to a thick pudding consistency. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve. Press with the back of a spoon to force the mixture through. Chill this mixture for 15 minutes. 3.       Take room temperature butter in a large bowl and beat for a minute until soft and...

Peanut butter cake with peanut butter frosting, chocolate ganache and peanut chikki sprinkles

The day I decide to chuck the packed lunch from home, in the mood for a nice fat sub, go straight up and order my favourite sub for once without looking at “The sub of the day” without dillydallying, the group behind me is arguing in great detail about the best deal – “sub of the day as salad + this – that is better than sub of the day + that. You save 10 bucks da machaan”. I didn’t need that. Is that a message? I didn’t need that. I order mine with extra cheese and then add a toastie as well. There, take that! I made this cake for Jagan’s birthday last month. I was just a few weeks into my so called “no-dessert, keep your hands off the extra biryani” diet, I’d eat leftover vegetables or a carrot or some fruit before going hungry to bed and almost getting used to it. Then I made this cake. After everybody had had their slice after cutting the cake, after sharing with friends and family, I still had more than one quarter of the cake plus the trimmed pieces of the cake dome plus some of that over-the-top swiss meringue peanut butter frosting. I didn’t need that. What is one to do? For my nightly supper I substituted the carrot with a super-thin slice of the moist, peanut butter cake. When I was finished with the cake in said manner, I cut up pieces of the trimmed cake and dipped it in the super smooth, luscious peanut butter frosting and ate that up too. I licked the last of the peanut butter frosting. Circumstances… Aah. Circumstances can make even the most determined woman lick peanut butter frosting. What chance do I have? I am not even as determined. This is a special occasion cake I’ll be making several times. It is peanut butter bliss, from the moist, tender, peanut buttery cake to the luscious, smooth swiss meringue peanut butter frosting, a lovely bittersweet chocolate ganache to cut all the peanuttiness and a golden crown of crunchy peanut chikki shards to finish it off. By the way, I am terribly proud of my crushed peanut chikki sprinkles. So easy, so cheap, DIY and looks and tastes wow.Make this cake for a special occasion. Enjoy! Prep time: 15 mins (cake) + 30 mins (frosting) + 10 mins (ganache)Baking time: 30 minsServes:...

Thalapakatti style biryani

You know you’ve reached the steady state when you make an online money transfer to your husband for his birthday present and he in turn checks out your Amazon cart for your birthday present. Win-win. No more guessing if the shirt will fit, no more aspirational “for your good, for us” gifts he never unwraps, no surprise awkward spa experience that makes him blush. Who would think of getting a Quad copter drone for a 33 year old’s birthday present? I wouldn’t. He wanted just that. We are now seasoned enough to appreciate that we don’t know each other’s areas of interest, that it is not necessary or easy to know and it is best to ask. I was the surprise junkie, going for the surprise factor, for difference, extrapolating from my head to his. Not anymore. Now, we discuss, I put forth my ideas, he rejects them all, I agree to buy what he decides, find that it doesn’t fit in my mental make-up (flying toy for $50!) and agree to transfer money instead to avoid the hassle. Cool! I still bake his birthday cake and I decide what to make. I cannot be making a sponge cake or chocolate cake. I have a blog to write for. I cannot be making reruns. I have my bucket list of cakes I want to make in life. Sorry! But there is one thing that we both agree on, one thing we both love, that we’re both passionate about – biryani. I had to make one of his favourite biryanis for his birthday. After all it is his birthday. So Thalapakatti style biryani it was. It tastes much like Thalapakatti’s signature biryani – spicy, heady, aromatic, ghee laden seeraga samba rice biryani. No tomatoes in this biryani. The magic is in the ground spice paste. I went with 12 green chillies. It is hot but we like it that way. Feel free to reduce it to your taste. I marinated the chicken the previous night and ground up the masala too the previous night. I was making it on a weekday morning before school. I needed to pre-make as much as I could. That is all there is to it actually. This Thalapakatti style biryani is among the easiest I have made in recent times and I am going to be making it many more times. One more biryani crossed out...

My Lasagna search ends in my kitchen

Is it possible to be possessive about cheese? To covet cheese? What about knives? Tell me it is normal. I guard my best cheeses for the very best recipes, the foolproof ones, the ones I know would work. I then made this Lasagna. Cheese well spent. A short while back, but for quite a long time I was going crazy. Reading that sentence makes me think I really am. I really was going nuts. You know that famous saying “Order Lasagna and you’ll know what the restaurant’s worth!” You didn’t? It is not a saying. But it could be. It should be. Just saying.Well, I ordered Lasagna everywhere I went but I didn’t get any. I got hybrid, indigenous versions that tasted like baked korma pasta which made me even more determined to have my lasagna. At “That Mad#$%  place” the lady told me that that was how they made Lasagna at their restaurant, it was their signature Lasagna and that was how they’ve been making it since they opened (opened when? 1930?). Tell me something – When you order oothappam at a restaurant wouldn’t you expect to eat that slightly thick pancake like thing made with slightly sour dosa batter topped with onions, green chillies maybe, maybe a sprinkling of milagai podi, the oothappam we’ve always known? Would you take a toasted idli topped with onions if it is their signature oothappam, if that is what they call oothappam, if that is how they’ve been making it since they’ve opened? Would you take idlis dunked in kara kuzhambu as somebody’s signature sambar idli? Imagine my horror, my disappointment, my misery. Time to take things into my own hands. The best way to make lasagna I’ve learnt is to ready the components the previous day. First the Bolognese sauce – It is a cinch to make if you give it the time, if you can wait, if you can resist slurping it all up. It needs to cook slow and long and scents your kitchen. It is quite heady, divine really. With the Bolognese in the fridge, I slept a little more confident that the Lasagna would turn out well. I made the béchamel sauce, grated up the cheese and cooked the pasta sheets. I cleared the entire dining table to lay out my Lasagana cast – Bolognese sauce, very slightly warmed with a ladle, cooked pasta sheets carefully spaced out...

Eggless streusel bottomed (really, bottomed; not topped) Apple Cake with brown butter glaze

We are subtracting using figures. Eight kites minus 3 kites. Hasini strikes out 4 instead of 3 kites, realizes the mistake, then looks around for the eraser for the 28th time. I have not been able to explain this phenomenon of the missing eraser. I vaguely remember having the same problem too while writing my record. At the school gate last week, Hasini agitatedly asks for her lunch bag which she is jiggling around while asking for it. I’ve been known to search for my glasses while wearing them. Hasini once went to school without her books. I went for my college practical exam without my lab coat. Hasini likes to narrate stories about her dad, her mom and the chickens at home to her class teacher, art teacher, paatu teacher, and the aunty friends she makes at the beauty parlour while I am getting a pedicure. I tell you stories about Hasini, Yuvi, their homework, the tamil cinema I saw last week (I haven’t? I will soon) and my big bottom instead of the eggless streusel bottomed apple cake with brown butter glaze. It runs in the family. Not surprising that the apple cake turned out streusel bottomed instead of streusel topped. Bundt cakes are inverted; which I realized the minute after I filled the pan with the batter and lovingly topped with the streusel mixture. So streusel bottomed apple cake it was. But I am not complaining. This is the best cake I’ve baked in recent times. This apple cake is one of those classic cakes that are stellar on their own – no filling, frosting necessary to up their taste. I am crazy about the crumb these days. This cake has a beautiful crumb, not too fine but fine enough, moist and perfect. It slices like a dream and tastes fantastic. The brown butter glaze is super easy to make. Just whisk everything together in a pan and heat.  If you’re making the streusel which you should, remember to first layer the streusel and then fill in the cake batter. This cake batter is really thick, almost like cookie dough, so the streusel wouldn’t seep into the batter. Or you could bake the streusel separately on a sheet pan and then sprinkle over the glazed cake. The warm, nutty sweet of the glaze, the mellow, sweet of the apple cake and the crunchy, buttery sweet of the...

Papaya Apple Halwa

If only I were as good a planner as I am a dreamer, I’d have made a Valentine’s day themed post. I’ d have the menu for the entire month printed in a calendar format and pinned to my pin-up board. I’d have gone through my son’s Pre-KG syllabus at the beginning of the term rather than now, 2 weeks before his evaluations. I: Yuvi, young one of hen? Yuvi: Kozhi I: No Yuvi, Kozhi is hen. Young one of hen is chick. Young one of cat is kitten. Young one of dog? Hasini, don’t answer. Yuvi: Kitten? I: No Yuvi, young one of dog is puppy Yuvi: Yellathayum kitten sollalama? (Can we call all the young ones kitten? Please?) I crack up. He prances around thinking he has passed the test, thinking his lessons are over for the day.  I put away the books after one last round of rhymes he recites as he somersaults across the bed. Hasini joins along in the rhyme instead of writing her English essay. The Pizza arrives. We pack up for the day. I decide to be rational and steady and composed and think we can make it if we do little every day. I plan a rich heart shaped chocolate pudding cake for Valentine’s day because I couldn’t make it for the last wedding anniversary or the last valentine’s day. I am out of chocolate. I think I may buy it the day before and just bake this pudding cake off last minute. Without too much fuss, too much pre-planning and worrying. Just do it type. But I happened to not do it. Of late I’ve been leaning away from cake, towards non-fussy luscious halwas and kheers you can just scoop into a bowl, top with some crunchy nuts and call them dessert. And no less sensational. One mouthful of this papaya halwa makes me close my eyes and moan in pleasure. Note that the papaya is the surprise element. But the halwa tastes nothing like papaya. You may do away with the apples and make just a papaya halwa by subbing the apples with papaya. Not the other way around. Papaya haters will love this halwa too. It is an open challenge. Prep time: 15 mins Cooking time: 35 mins Serves: 8-10 Ingredients Papaya – 1 medium sized, peeled, seeded and diced fine Apples – 3 peeled, cored and grated Condensed...

Kheer Poori

First the score: How many movies did you watch this Pongal? I watched 5-1/2. Not in theatres. On TV. My butt is still sore from sitting all day watching TV. My un-mentioned resolution is to watch more movies, good movies and all of Balachander’s movies. But the DVD player needs to be fixed first. But hey, the mechanic is back. Jagan is back from the US. I hope he has resolved to get the DVD player fixed and along with that the alarm clock and all our wrist watches (I mean all the wrist watches that the family ever owned. I don’t have even one that works. Is that a sign?). I hope he has resolved not to give the gym and personal trainer his annual donation. Hey, it is not easy making resolutions for others. I bought a Vivofit fitness band last week (just like fitbit but this one doesn’t need to be charged with a USB cable! That is way too much work to get a fitness band working) that I’d been eyeing for a long time for myself but gifted it to Jagan very magnanimously only to be told that he doesn’t really like wearing things on his wrist. He brought it home in its packaging. In my long history of gift flops, this one is number one. In another Freudian interpretation, maybe I feel guilty buying it for myself but feel good buying it for him although I subconsciously know that he may not be interested and I’ll get to use it. Did any of us actually use the Vivofit? Ahem… No, not yet. Something that did become a hit was this Kheer Poori. The original recipe is from a beautiful treasure trove of Chettinad recipes called “Chettinad Cookbook”. I picked this book up a couple of weeks back and it has quickly become my favourite reference. I made this Kheer Poori as a “Welcome home” dessert for Jagan and he loved it. It is super simple to make and much quicker than traditional desserts. I like to serve the Kheer chilled with the crisp pooris scattered on top. You could let the pooris soak in the kheer and garnish with a few crisp pooris too. Either way it is luscious. This will make a wonderful ending for an Indian meal. Prep time: 20 mins Cooking time: 20 mins Serves: 4-5 Ingredients – Kheer Whole Milk...

A couple of cakes and some party inspiration

I am renaming the “Craft” column in my blog to “Party inspiration” Because I’ve been most un-crafty Because the craftiest I’ve done recently is.. hmm.. is.. (give me some time, will you) So that I can pass off my picture-perfect (not) whacky creations as inspiration as opposed to craft and not offend genuine crafters So that I have a place to show-off my cakes and So I can inspire you guys to try Here is a list of tips that will be useful when you’re planning a DIY (with help) party. First things first, THE CAKE 1.       Cake decorating is best done between 11 pm and 3 am, in the wee hours of the night when everyone is asleep, when you won’t be interrupted for someone’s potty, when the courier guy, gas guy and cable guy won’t come calling, when there are no more filter coffees to make, when the kitchen is finally cool and quiet, when Mysskin is probably filming somewhere. 2.       “Always sketch your cake” as Subashini Ramsingh wisely says and borrow your kid’s crayons to colour-test them. 3.       For the sake of your own sanity, do make more frosting than you think you need. Always! If you are planning to try a new cake recipe or frosting recipe, don’t. 4.       Split up the work. I am no cake decorating professional. I am easily psyched out by a simple ruffle skirted Barbie cake. I like to split up my work. Bake the cake ahead. Make the fillings and toppers even ahead of that. Of course make a whole lot of frosting, also ahead of time. Then the night before your event, sit down and put it all together. And before all that, clear the largest dumpyard a.k.a your fridge and make space. Here is the barbie cake I made for Hasini’s 5th birthday, not all that justifiable given my nightly research for more than a month, but it’s a barbie cake. Here is a butterscotch cake I made for my best friend Menaka’s birthday.     Party Planning Did you know that the first thing to do when you decide to have a party is to plan the party décor and clear out your fridge? And also remember to make an appointment for a foot massage the day after the party. You’ll know why at the end of the party. 1.       Well, I always feel that I should start...
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