Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Cinnamon-Almond Chocolate Cake

This cake is a wonder of midnight-bakery. If you'll recall, this cold, wet, unseasonably stormy weather had put the damper on my newly-minted baking skills, and pushed me firmly back into hearty soups and chilli-noodles territory. However, a tray of desert ingredients can only twinkle at you temptingly for so long before you think, "To hell with the winter rains!", and bake yourself a climate-inappropriate cake.

One of perils of keeping ingredients waiting, however, is that some of them tend to disappear. Especially when one lives with one's parents. And since I have not learned the value of ingred. reconn. even after multiple minor kitchen disasters, I had to resort, once again, to immediate improvisations. In this case, replace the lovely dark chocolate quietly nicked by my mother with garden variety milk-choc.

It's not bad. I'm not saying it's bad. In fact, it's very good. But it's not seventy per cent dark. And you feel the difference.

That's 80gms of sugar, three sticks of cinnamon/daarchini, one 25gm bar of milk chocolate (all I had in the fridge), and three eggs. Plus, there is a little butter, the leftover dark chocolate (about 50gms), and approx. 30gms of sunflower oil in the sidelines.

That's the tiny pat of butter.

Which we melt in a saucepan of bubbling water. In my mephistophelian kitchen.

On top of it, goes the chocolate.

And obligingly melts.

Powdered sugar to beaten eggs. The old drill. 

That's the oil. 

Add it to the sugary eggs.
That sounds positively revolting, 'sugary eggs'.

In the meanwhile, the chocolate has melted. Yay. Have you ever noticed shop-bought chocolate bars take far longer than cooking chocolate to melt? I wonder why that is.

Scoop and scrape all the scrumptious chocolate into the egg-sugar-oil. Beat, beat!

And then, the best idea I've had all night: roughly-diced almonds. Mmm!

Then, just for fun, add a quarter teaspoon of cayenne/shukno lonkar guro. Because all the cool people eat their chocolate with red chilli powder.

And then, because it's 3AM and you're light-headed with chocolate and the lack of sleep, add a quarter teaspoon of home-ground garam masala (cinnamon, cardamom, cloves). Top with half a teaspoon of baking powder.

And then whisk it all together a few more times, and pour it into a greased and floured baking tin. And notice, too late, the air bubbles.

Not that it harmed the cake any. And the entire place smelt a warm, summery, cinnamony divine right till daybreak.

And we were done with the bowls and forks for the night. Yawn!

And Then, Disgustingly Early The Following Morning...

Surprise, Mamma! There's a cake in the oven! Now hooo could have baked it?

Well, never mind that. Let's have ourselves the first big slice, crunchy with cinnamon-roasted almonds. It smells like a slice of hearty, warm paradise.

That only improves on eating. Especially with a steaming cup of coffee. 

Sigh. Winter morning contentment. What is happiness, after all, but the perfect forkful?

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Spicy Chicken Noodles

After the unexpectedly warm Christmas and New Year's day, we had a quiet, peaceful new year's night. A rainy, cold, shivery, quiet and peaceful new year's night. Desserts just don't cut it on nights like these. So I put the ingredients of my second-ever cake away, and made myself a spicy noodle stir-fry. It's not stuff I'd serve to my pal Dea, but for people who are chums with chillies, this dish is absolutely the bees knees, the dog's bleeding unmentionables. If you're freezing from an unstoppable draft in an unheated flat in the middle of winter, there's absolutely nothing else that will shoot little flames of heat through your body better than this dish. So, try it while the season lasts!

Here's the drawing board:

 Take dried red chilies, little pieces of ginger, a little sugar, and some vinegar in a bowl (the small grinding-bowl of our mixie, in this case). All quants. depend on personal taste. Paste the lot.

Heat sunflower/canola oil in a wok. When hot, simmer and add chopped green shallots/pNeyaajkoli. I should note, however, that it's a better idea to add them with the onions later.

Then add tiny-diced carrots. If you want larger pieces, blanch, steam or boil them first in salt water.

Add similarly-diced chicken, preferably marinated in lemon juice and salt for an hour. Stir till golden-brown.

Finally, when the chicken is golden-brown and the carrots tender, add a half teaspoon or so of oil if needed, then add chopped red onions. Stir till they change colour and start smelling fried.

Then add the ginger-chilli-vinegar-sugar paste, and fold it in well. Season with a little salt.

When the chicken and vegetables have been cooked well in the spice, add boiled and drained noodles. Mix it all up.


Now go make it for yourself while the season lasts! If chicken is off your personal menu, just substitute with more veggies, or small chunks of paneer or tofu. Happy winter eating, people :-)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Chocolate Cake with Nutty Caramel Icing

This is what I did with my winter break, which I didn't actually have. Christmas was on a Sunday, new year's day was on a Sunday, and I didn't even have Saturdays off this month. Actually, we never have Saturdays off at this place. We're that dedicated. Weekends? What weekends? Phooey.

This cake was first lovingly administered to my tastebuds by P., and it single-handedly salvaged peanuts for me. I can't say I think glowingly of peanuts even now, but put a handful of them in home-made caramel sauce, and I'll take the first bottle off you at double the price. And I'm not that fond of caramel sauce either.

In short, this is a cake you need to try. Now. And you need to particularly bake it for yourself if you've never baked by yourself before. There'll be nothing simpler and more delicious than this basic choc. cake and its nutty caramel icing, and you'll think no end of your baking skills for the rest of your life. Nifty new year's gift to yourself, eh?

Here's the picturebook.
Take three eggs. Don't just stare at them, break them in a bowl. Go on.

Run 100gms of everyday sugar through the mixie. Et voila!, caster sugar.

Pour it on the stiffly-beaten eggs.

And whisk them together till all of the sugar disappears. Yes, yes, I should get a whisk. Whatever.

Now, pour 50gms of drinking chocolate into the mix. One could substitute with flour, if one prefers, or divvy 50gms into 25 of this and 25 of that. Blend it in.

Then, introduce about 60gms of sunflower/canola oil to the mix. No butter. Oil. And be thorough with it.

And now, for the chocolate.

Take about 170-200gms (depending on your preference) of dark cooking chocolate. Melt it in an improvised double-boiler: one bowl of rough-hewn chunks of chocolate, floating in a saucepan half-full of water.

Chocolate sauce! Well, not quite. But lip-smacking melted chocolate, anyway.

Pour it into the cake mix. Add a pinch of baking powder. Blend blend blend!

Pour it into a greased and flour-dusted cake tin. I borrowed a square from my great-uncle, but I have a predilection for round cakes. Lend me a round tin, someone?

Put this tin in a pre-heated oven (P. says preheat at 180C while you make the batter), and bake for thirty at 180C, then for fifteen at 200C, and then, if it still isn't done, at 180C till it's done. But don't take my word for the timings. I've encountered ovens which take both longer and far shorter to bake this cake, and if you followed my prescription on them, you'd end up with either charred lumps, of gloop.

Raw peanuts are bloody hard to peel. So, when you've got yourself 75gms of nuts-in-husk, what do you do?
You put it on a skillet or a tawa, and dry-roast it over a stove.

Which gives you a plateful of fresh-toasted nuts, with crinkly, papery shells.

Which you then separate them from, palmful by rubbing palmful.

And you get this. Which, by the way, is yum! with lemon juice, flavoured salt, and chopped onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and cilantro. Or just lemon juice and salt.

Now, use the day's paper (or the previous day's, I'm not picky) to fold the roasted peanuts in.

Crush the wrapped peanuts with a pestle, or a rolling-pin, or whatever's handy.

Now, caramelise 100gms of sugar with a quarter cup of water. I let it go on for too long -- take it off the flame before the amber of your caramel is this dark. Unless you enjoy a smoky aftertaste of sugary bitterness, of course.

Then, take a standard teacup full of heavy or fresh cream.

Warm it over a low flame.

And pour it into your bowl of caramelised sugar-water.

Whisk whisk whisk, this time with a wooden spatula. (I'm allergic to appropriate kitchen equipment).

And then, because the damn caramel sauce will begin to semi-solidify, put it back on the flame and add 25gms of butter. Fold it in well.

Then, when it's perfectly smooth, liquid, and rescued from bitterness, add the peanuts.

The cake! It's a soft, spongy, melt-in-your-mouth chocolatey cake, with a deliciously smoky caramel icing with crushed roasted peanuts in it.

Can you say "Oh dear god in heaven!!!"?

Well, be my guest.

Off to finish the cake with some vanilla ice-cream, folks. Have yourselves a scrumptious new year!