Recipe : Mango Tart

Sunila MunjalRecipes, Tarts6 Comments

Mango Tart

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My very first post (second one really, but the first of my baking chronicles!)

Big deal – for me.  I have been thinking about blogging for ever, and now this is more a sign of permanence and quietude for me. When I feel like the time is right.

“Anyone can cook!” – is Chef Gusteau’s motto in that most beautiful of animation movies, ‘Ratatouille’ (Pixar, 2007). The story is set in Paris, where the recently deceased Gusteau appears as a spirit in the mind of a young, determined rat, Rémy, who is also a culinary genius. Says Rémy,  “Anyone can, doesn’t mean that anyone should”!  :-D

The ambitious rat goes on to be labelled by a leading French food critic as ‘Nothing less than the finest chef in France’.

Inspiring? Sure.  Stuff that dreams are made of, and stuff that keeps your feet on the ground. How? Because it’s such a marvellously humorous take at French culinary snobbery, while at the same time being a gentle ode to French cuisine.

So, dreams aside and off to a kick-start, feet firmly on the ground  with a seasonal fruit tart. I think the best dishes are created with fresh produce, not with packaged fruits, and frozen meats. Primitive thinking probably, in this day of all-year round crops and imported, ‘fresh’ frozen products.

That’s the way I look at it though. Use what you get locally, what’s in season and work your way backwards from there, rather than going digging for things you will only find in hyper-markets. That’s not to say, I wait for the earth to come around the sun till I bake my favourite apple pie, but I use it as a general thumb-rule in my baking, and when the apple pie must be had and autumn is still a distant dream, I simply apologize to my finer senses and give in … ;-)

So the mangoes in this tart are just co-incidental. You could use any seasonal fruit that you like – strawberries, kiwis and berries work especially well.

The most important thing in a tart is, well of course, the tart base. You conquer the base and you’ve won half the battle and all else seems like a ‘piece of pie’ ;-)

So, the base.

Choose carefully the size and quantity of tarts that you will need. No point making a six-inch tart for a family of four, or a single nine-inch one when you are hosting a dinner for friends. And when it comes to the base, the good news is – you can make it ahead and store any left-over dough to make tiny lemon curd tartlets when the craving hits! ;) SO, I would say err on the side of caution and make a larger-than-you-think-you-will-need amount.

Here are the ingredients for a couple of six-inch tarts. Depending upon how thin you like them, you may be able to squeeze out a couple of tartlets in the end  :-)

The Ingredients:

All-purpose flour 215gms
Unsalted butter 100gms
Salt 1/8 teaspoon
Sugar (powder) 3 tablespoons
Egg 1
Cold water 2 tablespoons (and a little more)

 

Method:

Work with your hand mixer, or the food processor. First soften the cold butter in the bowl of your mixer. Sieve together the flour, salt and sugar. Add this to the softened butter and pulse only till it resembles breadcrumbs (I do this by hand, but then not everyone likes to get their hands sticky and messy).

Add a beaten egg and beat very shortly till the flour just about starts to come together. Take it out of the mixer bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of water (you may need a wee bit more) till the dough has just clung together to form a ball. Wrap with a cling wrap and leave it in the refrigerator for an hour or so.

Meanwhile, get your fillings ready or better still (if you are making the shell a day ahead) make yourself some lemonade, put your feet up and watch Ratatouille, again! ;-)

Pause the movie after an hour or so, take out your dough from the refrigerator, and if it is too firm, let it soften a little at room temperature till you are able to roll with a rolling pin. Roll the dough out as thin as you like it (but not so thin that the shell cracks because of being too brittle when you take it out, if that happens, your battle of the base is lost L. So I would say it should be at least ¼ inch thick), then cut out a circle a couple of inches larger than the circumference of your chosen tart pan.

The pastry dough before you press it in into the tart pan.

The pastry dough before you press it in into the tart pan.

Gently place the rolled dough circle on the tart pan, and using your thumb and fingers press it in to fill in the scalloped sides of the tart pan. Once done stand still a moment and admire the beauty of this!

The dough gently pressed into the sides and base of the tart pan

The dough gently pressed into the sides and base of the tart pan

Now, return this to the refrigerator for about 15 minutes, and pre-heat your oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Go back to Rémy, as he sees his reflection in a puddle on the streets of Paris and is hit by an existentialist, “I was reminded how fragile it all was. How the world really saw me.”. Pause for a few seconds.

Take your dough out again. With a fork poke some holes in it, but not all the way down. Blind bake (use any dry beans) your tart shell for about 15 minutes.  Meanwhile, Ego the critic is at Gusteau’s restaurant, ready to rip the chef apart with his scathing words,  that is until he is served the ratatouille, made by Rémy.

Poke the base with a fork

Poke the base with a fork

 

Blind bake!

Blind bake!

 

Take the shell out from the oven and remove the beans used for blind baking. Put it back in the oven for another 5-7 minutes till your tart base appears dry, and has started to brown.  Take it out and cool on a wire rack. Once it has cooled down completely, you could seal it with an egg white or some melted jam or preserve (a neutral flavoured one). I skipped this since I wasn’t gonna wait to eat my tart!

Proceed to the tart assembly step, once all the components are ready. Before that perhaps, watch the movie end in the bistro ‘La Ratatouille’ run by Rémy, Linguini and Colette, and funded by Anton Ego. They leave us happy in their new world, with many customers enjoying Rémy’s creations and the rats (Rémy’s family and friends) enjoying a delectable meal in the attic of the bistro. Lovely.

 

Fillings:

  1. Crème pâtissière (Pastry cream). This really is a form of home-made custard thickened with eggs.
  2. Sliced or scooped fruits, in this case, Mangoes!

Filling 1: Pastry Cream (Recipe adapted from Raymond Blanc – Raymond Blanc’s Kitchen Secrets)

The Ingredients:

Whole or toned (reduced milk) 175 ml
Egg yolks 2
Caster sugar 35 gms
Flour 1 ¼ tablespoons
Cornflour 1 ¼ tablespoons
Vanilla extract ¼ tablespoons

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Method:

In a mixing bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar, till the colour pales. Sieve together the flour and cornflour and add this to the egg mixture and set aside.

Place the milk on the burner and bring it to a point when it just about starts simmering. Do not allow it to boil. Now, very slowly (or else the eggs WILL curdle), add half the hot milk to the egg mixture, all the while whisking it.

Then return this mixture to the remaining half of the milk and put it back on the burner till it boils. Whisk continuously through this process. Let the mixture simmer another minute. Remove from the heat, and immediately cover it with a cling wrap to prevent a film from forming. Cool it at room temperature and refrigerate if not using immediately.

Filling 2: Fruits

The Ingredients:

Mangoes (any variety, preferably a ripe, juicy deep coloured one) 2
Kiwi (optional, for garnishing)
Sweet or fresh cherries (optional, for garnishing)

Method:

Cut very thin slices or scoop out pieces of mango (using a fruit corer, or whatever this piece of apparatus is called where you live).

Cut small pieces of kiwi, if using.

Leave the cherries whole, if using.

Assembling the mango tart:

Take the baked tart crust. Pour pastry cream into it (if your pastry cream was in the refrigerature, just give it a little twirl with a wire whisk before doing this) and smoothen it out evenly into the tart shell. You could do this easily with a palette knife or an icing spatula.

Now, carefully place the mango pieces on the pastry cream starting from the outer ring working your way inwards. (If you are using slices, then just arrange them in concentric circles inside the tart shell).

Now, garnish with very small slices of kiwis, and a few whole cherries. Remember this is a mango tart, I wouldn’t want to taste a pre-dominant taste of kiwi or even cream. The mango must make its presence felt on the palette! J Imperative.

Enjoy it fresh or glaze it with some apricot jelly or jam if you are refrigerating it for a while (the cut fruits will loose moisture, and look unappealing).

I  commend your persistence if you’ve reached the end of this post, and really made your tart from scratch. And on days when you just don’t feel like it, or you don’t have any eggs in the refrigerator, you could make a simple custard (the packaged powder mix-with-milk variety. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t taste bad at all, even though the overpowering sweetness of packaged custard does take away totally from the natural sweet of the mango. Just make sure to call it a ‘Custard tart’ though, and you’re covered).

Till next time, adieu!

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Bon courage with your endeavour and of course, Bon appétit.

 

 

Recipe : Crack pie

Sunila MunjalPies, Recipes, Tarts16 Comments

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Oh, the life (and love) of pie! Yeah, that was the June Daring Bakers challenge. And what a fantastic one it turned out to be.

Rachael from pizzarossa was our lovely June 2013 Daring Bakers’ host and she had us whipping up delicious pies in our kitchens! Cream pies, fruit pies, chocolate pies, even crack pies! There’s nothing like pie!Smile

I can ‘aye’ to that, especially since I went after the one thing that intrigued me – Crack Pie. Perhaps you are shaking your head with a ‘she couldn’t really mean ‘crack’?’ To the uninitiated like me who are thinking “Really, where does one source the cocaine?” or “Is this even legal?”, “Perhaps it calls for a ‘legally permissible’ quantity?”, “Uh, sounds like a challenge for sure – just sourcing the key ingredient, what fun!?”

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Oh well, hate to burst the adventure bubble, like mine did. Set about finding its origins and alas found out wherefore it is so named. The name’s actually trademarked by New York’s Momofuku Milk Bar. And why the provocative nomenclature? Apparently, and I was more than ready to test this out, it is as addictive as crack-cocaine. Now, of course, this has to be subjective, and not just because you needed to have ‘used’ to know in the first place! But to go so far as to patent a pie thus because some people claim addiction smacks of a media blitz. So, all the more reason to try it out and see for myself.

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Now, the moment I saw the recipe I had a couple of seizures seeing the amount of a) sugar b) more sugar (albeit brown) and c) butter. So, doing what I do, I made a note to cut it dramatically down to size to suit my very limited sweet and even more limited ‘buttery’ tooth. So, I would have to have two versions – the original which would probably be the final kick in the … to finally land me in the gym, and the ‘my’ version almost halving the butter and sugar. The end result of both, which I shall talk about later, was still a very buttery sweet pie with, and I must admit, a mind-blowing oat cookie crust. That, i.e. the crust proudly takes the crown – almost surreptitiously creeping in into the whole that is the pie and rendering it with a crunch and a flavour that does indeed leave you wanting a few more of those little crumbs that fell off when you cut the last slice.

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Now, having said that and not yet being on a sugar-high after nicking yet-another ‘tiny’ slice of the pie from the refrigerator, I am left wondering at a scenario where the Momofuku Milk Bar set up shop in our land. Oh my! This could become a rage here. That would of course be for the lovers. The haters would say, “What’s the big deal? Its like a dozen other overly sweet sweets.” Either way, given our already formed and judgemental palettes and s-w-e-e-t tooth, the crack pie smacks of home. Once again, the differentiator is the crust.

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The verdict: Well, I wouldn’t call it my favourite pie, or even the next on the list, but I am biased with a lower sugar threshold. So, I am definitely going back for more of my lower fat and sugar version. But the crust, my, the crust was ingenious and a ‘Crack’er! I can see myself using and adapting it for many more pies to come. Totally floored.

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Now, the recipe, of course. Very conveniently, the cookie crust turned out to be enough to line two six-inch pie moulds for me. Then I took a half measure of the filling from the original given recipe below and made one tart as per the original. And in the other half I reduced the quantity of butter and sugar to about half again. The first, as I said, was way too sweet for the family, but the second was fantastic. Just right on the butter and leaning towards the very sweet but great-on-days-when-you-need-the-instant-sugar-high. This differentiation made me half think the ‘crack’ must refer to the ‘high’ that it gives almost instantaneously. Anyway, we’ve already dissected that :-)

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So, I’ll stop the rant and here’s the ‘original’ recipe. Source: Bon Appetit. Thanks again Rachael. Was totally worth it!

Ingredients (Oat Cookie Crust):

Unsalted butter 9 tbsp / 125 gms (divided 6 and 3 tbsp)
Brown sugar 5 ½ tbsp / 70 gms (divided 4 and 1 ½ tbsp)
Granulated sugar 2 tbsp / 30 gms
Egg 1
Oats ¾ cup + 2 tbsp / 80 gms
All-purpose flour ½ cup / 70 gms
Baking powder 1/8 tsp
Baking soda 1/8 tsp
Salt ¼ tsp

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Method (Crust):

Pre-heat oven to 180˚C. Grease or line a baking sheet or pan. Soften butter at room temperature. In the bowl of your hand mixer whisk together 6 tbsp butter, 4 tbsp brown sugar and the ganulated sugar. Whisk until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Add the egg and whisk again until pale and fluffy.

Add the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix again until the mixture is well blended.

Now, pour this out evenly onto your baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes.

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Once done, take it out and cool completely on a wire rack. Then using your hands crumble the cookie completely. Add to this the remaining butter (3 tbsp) and brown sugar (1 1/2 tbsp) and rub it in until the mixture gets moist and sticky. Now scoop this out onto your pie dish and press it out onto the sides and the bottom.

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There you go, ready for the next round – the filling, which is easy as can be.

Ingredients (Filling):

Granulated sugar ¾ cup / 170 gms
Brown sugar ½ cup / 100 gms
Dry milk powder 1 tbsp / 8gms
Salt ¼ tsp
Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled ½ cup / 115 gms
Heavy whipping cream 6 ½ tbsp / 100 ml
Egg yolks 4 large
Vanilla extract 1 tsp
Powdered sugar For dusting

Method (Filling):

Pre-heat oven to 180˚C. In a bowl, whisk together the sugars, milk powder and salt. Add the melted butter and whisk again.

Add the cream, egg yolks and vanilla and whisk until well blended. Pour it out into the crust and bake for 25-30 minutes. The filling should be bubbling. Reduce the temperature to 160˚C and bake for another 20 minutes. The filling should have browned and set around the edges.

When deciding on baking times, always account for variables like the size of your pie, the colour of your baking dish etc. and then go with your gut! ;-)

Cool the pie completely on a wire rack and then refrigerate to chill overnight. The next day sprinkle powdered sugar, unmould and cut it out as you like, or just dig in with a fork. Nothing’s stopping you, right?

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Recipe : Pound Cake with homemade cream!

Sunila MunjalCakes, RecipesLeave a Comment

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‘Ol times and a whiff of nostalgia. This was for the times when cake was a special treat to be had when mum, who rarely ever baked, would take out that contraption of a thing that was the ‘gas oven’ and bake a pound cake with homemade cream. Oh, the pleasure of it, the taste buds still tingle.

Nothing evokes memories better than food and the thought of this cake reminded me of lazy Sunday afternoons awaiting the Sunday evening flick on TV, fighting with my brother for that first slice, and the satisfaction of a treat that was out of the ordinary.

But try as I might I couldn’t remember what the gas oven looked like. I remembered that it was big and bulky, it was black, and that it had a hole at the bottom that would go on top of the stove and that’s how the cake would get baked. So, I looked around and found something that came close enough. Imagine a big huge metal box with a door and a latch! Yep, that’s what it looked like.

Times have changed, but whether you have a brand new convection or an old gas oven, the smell of good old pound cake won’t and it will likely stay with you forever. This truly is home baked cake at it lightest and best. The inspiration came from having loads of fresh cream, just creamed off milk in the last day or two, in the fridge and the desire to do something other than making clarified butter. So, off I went to call my mum and ask what she did to get that inimitable taste. Her answer was, well, very simple. The cream should be fresh, the proportion of flour and cream and sugar should be roughly equal  – pretty much what the pound cakes of old do, i.e. a pound each of butter, eggs,  flour and sugar. But I balk at making a pound cake for that very reason – a pound of butter!

So, taking that as a rough guideline, I proceeded to make the cake that was soft and light,  it made me miss the old times, those care-free school years and that child-like joy. I am just glad I could re-create a bit of that magic for my kids, even though my son will take some time to appreciate cake that doesn’t mean chocolate!

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The Ingredients:

Icing sugar 200 gms
All purpose flour 170 gms
Fresh cream 180 ml
Baking powder 1 tsp
Baking soda ½ tsp
Pure vanilla extract 1 tsp
Milk 180 ml
Almond essence (optional) ½ tsp

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Method:

Take all-purpose flour, baking powder and baking soda in a large mixing bowl and whisk well. Preferably sift them together and whisk.

Using your hand-mixer, beat the milk cream and sugar. Do not over-whisk, which might cause the cream to curdle. Add the pure vanilla extract and mix.

Now, starting with the all-purpose flour, alternately whisk in the flour (in three additions) and milk (in two additions), again making sure not to over-whisk.

Pre-heat your oven to 180˚C (350˚F). Grease and line a round or square tin (a 7” or 8” inch tin should do very well). Pour in your cake batter and bake for approximately 45 minutes or till a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. The top of the cake would be a nice amber by now. The cake pulling away from the sides of the pan is also a good sign, but make sure to do the skewer test anyway!

Cool the cake completely on a wire rack before taking it out of the pan, post which there needs to be no more waiting for a taste of the good old times. You will perhaps not even notice the absence of egg!  Enjoy!

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Down the tiered road …

Sunila MunjalCakes, GeneralLeave a Comment

… in Cakedom! Needless to say, it was an alley I hadn’t been down before. And yeah, I AM grinning from ear to ear! What a thrill it was to create a tiered cake. Correction – TWO tiered cakes, at one go! Was I nervous? Not at all. Goose pimples, shivering hands and a sleepless night full of nightmares of the top sinking into the bottom apart, it WAS a ‘tier’ of cake.

Loved every bit of it. Would do it again anytime, in fact I am all set to do a wedding cake, an Eiffel tower, a leaning tower, the Burj Khalifa!

Oh, okay, getting carried away, are we?! Well, (Mark) Knopfler says, “That’s the way it always starts, sitting here and waiting on the beating of my heart”. And I swear by him. Always have.BheemCake4

So, I just followed it – the way of my heart, which was beating like a drum and saying, “That’s the way to go”. A whole day was spent preparing the tiers and another in scraping the frosting. The end result was a smooth as silk exterior ready to be decorated, according to the mum’s brief (it being a double birthday cake for two boys).

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So, there … all the tiers were set and ready!

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The time was fast appraching for me to take the bull by the horns, dowels et al!

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… and there was no more delaying (or I would have missed the train and the birthday!). It just had to be done, no escaping the moment of truth.

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Off then ready to put the tiers on a few moments before I had to leave with the cakes and …

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<phew><wiping off pearls of sweat> … it worked like magic. A jump of joy later, time for the next one …

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What a lovely road it was. I am still getting goose pimples just thinking about the two days, four tiers, five kilos of cake … it makes me wonder if Morrison was indeed right, “I think the highest and lowest points are the important ones. Everything else is just…in between.” (Jim Morrison)

And now, for a few earned moments of rest before my mind wanders off to the next high! :)BheemCake7

Recipe : Armenian Nutmeg Cake

Sunila MunjalCakes, General, RecipesLeave a Comment

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So … where exactly is Armenia? I thought I knew and well … I didn’t. It seems a LOT of people don’t! Not even Armenians for that matter if we are to believe this debate. A lot many people are confused about this Caucasian country, is it in Asia, in Europe – some think it is European because it may join the EU sometime in the future, or because a large majority of Armenians are Christian. Geographically it lies bang in the area where the two continents meet – the Caucasus mountains. Some call it middle-eastern or Caucasian to not take sides, literally.

The next question was REALLY – a nutmeg cake that too from a country bordering two continents? I mean a no-brainer in terms of choice, right? HAD to try it out. Had to find out how it works. Does it have influences from both European and Asian cooking? What is Armenian cuisine anyway? Apparently closer in nature and belonging to middle-eastern cooking, with Turkish and Arabic overtones,  Armenian cuisine is rich in variety and flavour especially due to its use of fresh ingredients. It relies more on delicate spices.

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I had heard of the nazook (which is next on my list of to do dishes from Armenia) which is a rolled filled pastry, but the nutmeg cake was new to me. So, if it’s new and its exciting (a spice cake!) we definitely try it out once! I extensively use and love cinnamon in my baking. I know some people don’t like it all that much, and I don’t either in my regular food. But whether it’s an apple pie or a banana muffin or a cinnamon coffee cake, I usually load it in. In theory, the thought of a spice cake was not all that alien to me. BUT nutmeg is a whole different ball game. It’s not like cinnamon which blends in so well and add to so many fruits and takes the taste to a higher level. Nutmeg IS a proper spice … with that little dash you can feel that tangy twang, the sweetness and yet saltiness, that little after-taste that at times leaves you wanting more and at others takes getting used to.

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That was my verdict on this cake – it’s not for everybody, definitely not for those who love only chocolate cake for the instant high it gives, but surely for those who like to keep an open mind with flavours, who like variety in their tea or coffee cakes – be it an orange chiffon cake, a coconut cake or a pumpkin cake – who have eccentric palettes that explore boundaries. All of that in a nutmeg cake? Well, that’s just it, this isn’t just a cake, it’s a cookie and a cake rolled into one. A crusty, crisp cookie base topped by a smooth, moist and soft sponge – all of that with nutmeg and walnuts and once again with that dash of cinnamon that I sprinkled into it just for the heck of it and because I can’t resist it.

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The thing is – it reminded me of the crack pie with that quantum of sugar, so once again I tried reducing it dramatically, only this time I discovered that the sugar probably veils the nutmeg and makes it more subtle in this. Hence, the reduction kind of made the nutmeg – especially in the base – much more prominent than it is meant to be. So, lesson learnt. Won’t be reducing it all that much the next time around. But making it the next time around, I surely will. Just one look at the beautiful brown walnut sprinkled cake and what’s not to love about it?

So, here goes the way to make it …

Ingredients:

Milk 1 cup
Baking soda 1 tsp
All-purpose flour 2 cups
Baking powder 2 tsp
Brown sugar 2 cups
Unsalted butter ¾ cup
Walnut pieces ½ cup
Ground nutmeg 1 ½ tsp
Egg 1

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Method:

Sift and mix in the all-purpose flour and baking powder in a bowl. Add the brown sugar and mix. Now, add in the cubed butter and mix it in with a fork till you get a crumbly texture.

Grease a 9 inch springform pan, take half the above mixture and spread it into the base of the pan. Press it in as a crust. In the bowl of your hand mixer take an egg and whisk it. Add the nutmeg and mix it in nicely till its frothy. In another bowl mix in the baking soda to the milk and add this to the egg mixture. Continue to whisk with your hand mixer. Pour in the rest of the dry flour mixture and whisk until combined.

Now, pour this into your ready pan. Top with a sprinkling of walnuts and you are good to go into the oven! Pre-heat your oven to 180˚C and bake for well, it took me around 45 odd minutes. What you will get out of there is this most fragrant and beautiful cake. Enjoy the fragrance while it still wafts in your kitchen! Then, of course cool and cut the cake.

This with a glass of wine or some black coffee on a lazy evening would be awesome.

July 2013: In a “celebration” of past Daring Baker challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen and pick any one we’d like! The real challenge was which delicious one to try! 

Of Boys, Books, Baking and Blogging

Sunila MunjalGeneralLeave a Comment

Boys and Baking – pretty much sums up most of my life right now with the latter often inspired and egged-on by the former and the other two – books and blogging – floating somewhere in between and surfacing only those clear, bright, sunny days when the haze of sleep deprivation lifts and lets in some beautiful rays of clear thought.

I have hardly ever taken up something seriously that I am not crazy about. Tinkered here and there with various things in the in-between years as the kids came along, but after my first love for language through the growing-up years, this comes a very close second.

Been obsessed with it of late. So somehow somewhere the dream surfaced as the dark clouds lifted, and I hope to one day merge the two things that keep me alive and kickin’ – books and baking. For now though we make good with my virtual place – The Undercover Cafe which is more than enough to inspire dreams of cakes that I haven’t yet baked, of making tarts that would startle, in a good way, and about creating desserts for anyone who cares to stop by and hopefully leaves with a smile.

Yeah, you kind of got the idea, and I sort of got the hint, that I need to find an outlet for this crazy obsession, to document my baking disasters, tribulations and occasional triumphs here in my oven diaries. Hence the decision to bear this blog.

Hopefully with time, the right nurture, love and care, this too will grow, like my two boys, to be one of the finest pleasures of my life.

Here’s to dreaming and some fine baking!

Do drop by my Facebook page for a look @ https://www.facebook.com/TheUndercoverBaker