Tag Archives: Cookies

Walking, not Running

One should tread lightly in the new year. The copy book is open to its first page – blank, but with a sense of anticipation; the pages behind stretching out like days to come, promising possibilities and more. You walk gently because you don’t want to hear the tinkle of resolutions breaking. January, my least favorite month, is yet to gather its hope shattering gloom which compels you to slide back into the sloth and despondency of the previous year. Of course, the most valid reason for the soft shamble is the hangover from the new year’s party when you foolishly drank like you were young, at heart if not in body.

My promise for the year is to dramatically slow down. A few years ago, I was introduced to the Slow Movement and now more than ever, I want to fully commit to it.

“Right across the world, people are doing the unthinkable: they’re slowing down, and finding that, although conventional wisdom tells you that if you slow down, you’re road kill, the opposite turns out to be true: that by slowing down at the right moments, people find that they do everything better. They eat better; they make love better; they exercise better; they work better; they live better.”
Carl Honore

Serendipity ensured that the piece, “Walk, Don’t Run”, by the Ventures, played at the close of the year, crystallizing my desire to get in touch with the inner tortoise. (Aside, I have a turtle puppet called Harley Turtleson, in memory of my college nickname. The puppet is a gift from a sister in law, who has also designed and hand painted, onto an apron, the image of the Pootler chef as a little tortoise, with a little bundle of belongings, wending its way through life. Things have a way of coming together.)

Thumbprint Cookies
Thumbprint Cookies

The last bake of the year were these thumbprint cookies, done on Sunday midnight to mark the last week of the year and to welcome a few friends to town. The baking took forever, as I refrigerated the cookies, at various steps – rolling out the balls, making the indents, even after the filling. My tiny oven makes a few batches at a time, so that coupled with the cold dough and the waiting and watching, gave enough time for the tortoise to emerge, and pootle into the jam jar. A few months ago, we bought a bunch of jams to try from Pondicherry. The apple butter is good enough to drown in, and the turtle had a few very happy moments with a nearly empty jam jar. Please order your bottle now.

Chunky Chocolate Orange Cake
Chunky Chocolate Orange Cake

The first bake of the year, yesterday, was the chunky chocolate orange cake. I forgot to put the orange zest into the cake, all the chocolate sank to the bottom and I juiced enough oranges to last into today’s breakfast. In some good news, the cake rose beautifully, and tasted every bit fresh as the new year.

Here’s wishing all of us a slow and happy 2015.

Love from the pootling tortoise!

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Cake sprinkles and birthday mirth

I write this blog post amidst the greenery of a university campus, one which is my husband’s alma mater and where my sister works. Visiting her on a mini vacation and being overwhelmed with the desire to be a student again. There is something undoubtedly alluring about the peace induced by the leafy avenues; time somehow floats gentler, carrying with it echoes of aspirations and laughter of several generations of students. The library holds the same awe as a church or any quiet place of worship and while one can quibble that “solid and ageless” can mean “stodgy and rigid”, I prefer the former.

Now contrast this sense of quiet and venerability with where I was last Sunday – the birthday party of a six year old – several cities and a world apart. The prep was marginally more hectic than the actual party as the SIL and I put it together literally overnight. While I am famed to letting things come down to the wire, cooking a couple of dishes for ten people, baking a cake and multiple batches of cookies (the rolling and cutting out of which required a zillion trips to the fridge), finding enough tins and bowls to carry all the food to the party venue, changing my mind twice about which luggage to carry, and catching a flight straight out of the party was a bit much even for me. All’s well, though, if it ends in cake sprinkles and the sunny smiles of a six year old.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake
Pineapple Upside Down Cake

The cake was to David Lebovitz upside down cake recipe. Note to self, must try with these other fruits – think pear or peaches. Note 2 to self. Buy a large cake pan or else prepare to wash of hardened caramelized sugar from all those spring form crevices, the baking tray etc. No amount of aluminum foil keeps the sugar in.

The cookies were rather last minute and out of Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen cookbook, shall share the recipe with you next week. They were called chocolate sugar cookies if I recall correctly, am calling them chocolate heart cookies.

With chocolate heart cookies
With chocolate heart cookies

The cake was a hit as was the birthday party. Ah, that reminds me, I watched a 100 foot journey yesterday. A decent enough movie, and while it is a bit of cliché, food does create memories. We created some great memories last Sunday using cake sprinkles and Nutella. Here is wishing my niece a very happy birthday and many more visits from her fairy godmother.

My husband kept saying “scary godmother”. Well then.

Icebox Cake

When my husband and I moved to Bangalore a few years back, we were helped to ‘settle in’ by my sister in law’s family.

Side note: “Settling in,” to me, is reminiscent of my Caesar playing days. Those not familiar with this video game – it involves building cities and settling it with people, infrastructure, means of agriculture, trading, culture and the likes. Whenever someone asks me if I have settled in, I imagine that I am a governor building Roman aqueducts around an Indian village’s banyan tree.

For mama bear
For mama bear

It is a lonely and physically exhausting effort to move home to a new city or neighborhood. A friendly face, who introduces you to the many tricks of living somewhere new, is the difference between remorse and joy at the moving decision. Yes, we shamelessly made the most of sis in law’s hospitality. So when she, her husband, and our niece moved back into town after being away for a couple of years, it felt natural that Goldilocks should repay the debt to the Bear family. I did make three cakes – the ones for mama and baby bear (a small cupcake) were duly carried as housewarming goodies, the papa bear cake went into sundry tummies around the neighborhood and at work.

The one for baby bear
The one for baby bear

This cake is super-fun to make – everything from slicing the chocolate wafers to piping on the whipped cream; I was like a child building a sandcastle. A big thank you is owed to Smitten Kitchen for the detailed recipe and instructions. 

RECIPE

Ingredients for the chocolate wafers
1 ½ cups all-purpose (refined) flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
200 grams of butter (at room temperature, or softened)
3 tablespoons whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (I used the seeds from three fourth of a vanilla pod)

For the whipped cream and putting together the cake
2 cups whipping cream
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla essence (I used the seeds from half a vanilla pod)
Cocoa powder or sugar sprinkles to finish

Making the chocolate wafers

  • Pulse together the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt and baking soda in a food processor until mixed through
  • Cut the butter into chunks and add to the dry ingredients. Pulse together several times.
  • Combine the milk and vanilla together in a small bowl and add to your mix with your processor running. My processor does not allow me to do, so I simply added the milk + vanilla in small amounts between pulses.
  • Roll out the mix on to a (clean) cutting board and knead a few times to evenly combine. Fashion into a log about 14 inches in length
  • Cover with parchment paper and refrigerate. I refrigerated it overnight, but an hour should do the trick
  • When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 180 c
  • Peel off the parchment paper and using a sharp knife, slice off thin (as thin as you can make them) circles of the log. Mine were extremely oddly shaped circles so don’t worry about them being perfect. I got about 60 odd wafers.
  • Lay out wafers in baking trays lined with parchment paper. Space them out a bit – about one inch. They spread some while baking but not much.
  • Bake wafers (in batches, if your oven is as tiny as mine). Baking time would depend on the thickness of your wafers and the numbers you bake. My first batch burnt on the edges about 12 minutes into baking – so I stuck between 8-10 minutes for subsequent batches.  Since they are so thin, there are in higher danger of being overdone than under, so keep an eagle eye on them especially on the ones which are in the ‘hot spots’ of your oven. Slightly soft, when fresh out of the oven, they crisp up quite soon

To assemble, first prepare the whipped cream

  • Whip together the cream, the sugar and the vanilla essence – using an electric mixer or the whipping attachment of the stand mixer – to stiff peaks. Check for sweetness midway through whipping.

You can either make cakes or cupcakes while assembling

Assembling into a cake

  • Arrange wafers as a flower, one in the center and five around as petals. Smitten Kitchen recommends 1 + 7 wafers, I used 1+ 5 since I made two cakes
  • Spread a layer of whipped cream either using a spatula or piping it on (with the biggest star nozzle you have)
  • Repeat to make several layers, depending on the number of wafers you have.  I managed five layers (for the mama bear cake) and seven layers (for the papa bear cake). End with a layer of cream
  • Sift some cocoa powder onto the top layer
  • Refrigerate overnight for wafers to soften into cake-like texture

Assembling into cupcakes

  • Begin with one wafer placed into a cupcake liner
  • Build the cupcake with alternate layers of whipped cream and wafers ending with a layer of cream. I stopped at four layers due to toppling fears, feel free to go higher
  • Finish with some sugar sprinkles. Or chocolate sprinkles or cocoa powder – whatever you have at hand.

Modification suggestions:

  • Use chocolate cream with this recipe from Joy of Baking
  • You don’t have to wait for those wafers to soften into cake. Simply sandwich cream between two wafers for homemade Oreos.

I traveled across the city with the mama bear and baby bear cake (in the blazing afternoon heat) soon after assembling them. Some layers of foil and fervent prayers protected them through the journey. May you find it easier to transport or better still, serve it at home.