May 31, 2012

Fingerlickin' Chocolate chip cookies

I have been trying to make the perfect chocolate chip cookies, the kind which I like. Now, what is the kind which I like? I like them very lightly browned on the top, browned at the bottom and crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. See.. thats why I have never been able to get it right till date. And, starting yesterday night, I have been on a project and these have turned out the way I love them.

I followed the recipe at Crepes of Wrath and I do not know what is the main difference in the recipe, as the only different thing which I felt I did was refrigerate them, which made the dough more easy to handle and also much better in consistency within the cookie.

Below I just paste the recipe over from Crepes of Wrath, also for my reference later on. The recipe yields about 24 cookies.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups (16 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (I used half milk chocolate and half semisweet – so sue me)
raw sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.
2. Beat together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy, at least 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add in the eggs, one at a time, until completely incorporated. The mixture will look light and fluffy. Add in the vanilla and beat in for 5 seconds.
3. Add in half of the flour, mix for 15 seconds, then add in the rest of the flour gradually until just moistened. Fold in the chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. Cover the bowl tightly and chill in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours (I skipped this step and really wish that I hadn’t. I think you should chill it for at LEAST 3 hours, and I will do this next time).
4. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line and/or grease two baking sheets. Roll the dough into a ball the size of 2 tablespoons. Place them on the prepared baking sheets about 1 inch apart, and press down just slightly with your palm. Sprinkle with a pinch of raw sugar, if you like. Bake for 12-14 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until the edges of the cookies are golden brown and the tops just start to darken. 
5. Remove the pan from the oven and allow the cookies for cool for at least 10 minutes, them remove to another surface to finish cooling. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.

Some changes which I did as per availability and convenience... I did not have sufficient brown sugar, so replaced the quantity with granulated sugar. I used only milk chocolate chips as I had run out of semi-sweet ones. I refrigerated the dough mixture overnight as it was getting too late, so that would have been about 8 - 9 hours. Following which I left it outside at room temperature for 15 - 20 minutes prior to baking. While baking, I did not sprinkle sugar on top also. Also, I did not bake the entire dough mixture, I froze about half of it in the morning once I was done baking about 12 - 15 cookies. These are the best tasting cookies which I have had home-made and I think this recipe is a keeper for ages.

May 27, 2012

Brown Beauty

This is a recipe from Betty Crocker's Cook Book, the 1980s edition. This was the first book which I came across on baking, something which my mom owned and swore by. I started making the simple cookies and then graduated to dinner rolls and croissants. Everything turned out wonderful when I followed what was written in this book.

So, when I wanted to make a cake for B's birthday I did not want to risk it, and decided to try the Brown Beauty cake from this book. Though the Bangalore Electricity Board played havoc with my cake, the taste and flavor was wonderful and the way I wanted the fudge cake to turn out. The icing which I did spoilt the look, but there is always a next time ;)

Here is the recipe


1/2 cup boiling water
2 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup shortening / unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 egg


1. Heat oven to 350 F
2. Grease and flour a pan ( 8x8x2" is the approx size required)
3. Stir boiling water and chocolate until the chocolate melts. Once melted, keep aside for cooling
4. Blend flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
5. Stir the blended ingredients into the cooled chocolate
6. Add shortening and beat for 1 minute, medium speed on mixer, continuously scraping the sides and bottom of the bowl
7. Add buttermilk, vanilla essence and egg.
8. Beat for 1 more minute.
9. Pour into the greased pan and bake for 35 - 40 mins.
10. Cool a while in the oven and then transfer to a wire rack.

May 21, 2012

A year since she arrived

A year since she arrived and the journey has been one of complete learning for me. From the point where I was too scared to pick her up, to this day when I manage her on one hip and get work done, with some dance moves thrown in in between to keep her occupied. If I look back, I do not think I missed out on anything she did, I was there when she decided to try and turn over, when she tried with all her might to move on her tummy, when she wobbled and sat swinging. I was there when she tried to stand up and fell down getting a nick in the process, when she played with a soft toy and threw it out of the window. These are the small number of many things which I would always remember, knowing, she will never do these things again, she has grown up. Now, she walks about the whole place, trying to discover new things and poke her head into ever cupboard and pull out stuff.

There are days when you feel thrilled and happy when you drift off to sleep and there are other nights when all you have time to think is when did your life change so much that you yourself do not seem to understand what is happening. Where did the peace and calm of your life disappear. when did it get replaced by a run for the day and accomplishing chores as the top priority.  Everything became clockwork or else they were just pushed for later, wherein the later might never come, or they might at continuous insistence from someone.

As I look ahead I know that it is only a matter of time when she will be on her own, off to school in maybe 2 years and then I would be rendered useless. But, knowing that I do not want to detach myself away from her and start getting my life into order as yet. I think I still enjoy it being played in tune to hers as of now. I do miss my tune at times, but then in 2 years again things will change…then I might just crave this. There is an option of starting to work, being productive again, where I have money which I know I can spend without thinking too much as its my hardwork which I can burn any which way. But that would also mean leaving her and going away not to see her daily antiques, not knowing what she does and how she does it. I do not think I am ready for that. She is my first born, my love, how many times I have thought about trying to engage myself even if its for a few hours daily. I am unable to do it, I do not think it is because I am not trying enough, or I am not dedicated enough. I think I am more dedicated to my daughter at present than to anyone else. She is the only person who truly needs me and needs me to be who she has to be.

However my logical mind tells me to start my journey back to work and independence, and in the process making her independent, but I feel a year or two more is all that I am going to get so why not. Then, there is the advice which tells me to have my second child asap, so that I am finished with my mothering duties also asap. If I wanted to just finish the duty, wouldn't it be simple to have a single child, experience motherhood and be done with it. I am in no hurry to finish off duties, and I do not think I will like it if I am running like a mad chicken for time between by two kids. This is one of the strongest reasons I feel I want a minimum of 3 years age difference between both my kids so that I know the elder one understands and can be a true elder sibling. I also think there might be many moms who would love to have a baby and toddler in the house and enjoy themselves thoroughly taking care of one or the other. Me, I doubt it.

Having said that, there is a fear about how I will get back to work and a life which I want. Will I be too late to jump aboard? Or will I find something which I can do the way I want to when the time is right? That might be just wishful thinking. I do not know.

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May 19, 2012

Book Review: Sandalwood Tree by Elle Newmark

Set in 1946 India, and narrating the lives of an American couple and their son who come to India as the father is a history student and he would like to document the pulling out of British troops from India and handing over of the country back to the Indians. They are set in Masoorla, close to Shimla to speak with the villagers on what they think and also as that the oppressive heat is more bearable in the hills, after all, Shimla is the queen of the hills. 

A personal battle being raged between the couple, a marriage which does not seem to have the peace, love and happiness as it did a few years back. The love seems to have faded post the husband's return from World War as a soldier. The life they shared seems to have disappeared, now they seem to be just two adults sharing a common living space. A change in scenario is what the wife thinks would maybe change their lives. But, changes seemed to have taken over her life when she discovers old letters, almost a century old in the old bungalow which they live it. From here on, its a story of discovery, self discovery and introspection. It has a very detailed, rich look at India and the folks of the hills. There is a clear understanding of marriage as an institution, what happens when there is nothing there in it for either of the people and when one is pushed to giving up. And, what does one do when you do give up and there is a child involved? A child of 5, who understands everything is not happy between mommy and daddy. A child who tries to set things right. 

The Indian culture through the years are shown in the form of the letters and journals left by the previous owners of the house and the present scenario with the many village residents who come by to help the American family settle into the hillside life. There is a wonderful story of love, passion and love for India which is detailed in the letters and journal. The story of two women who stayed by themselves away from their parents in the small haven that they had created for themselves at Masoorla. This sandalwood tree at the front of the house seems to have held many stories through the years and kept many a secrets for many.

I enjoyed reading the book mostly with regard to the relationship between the couple and seeing how a marriage has its dips and peaks. A very interesting deal as most marriages seem to go through these phases. Is it because we as human beings change, and when we marry , we expect the person to be the one you married all through the period of the marriage? Or is it that your expectations change once you start being a part of someone else's life? A simple read, rich in detail, an average story, but with many facets.

May 15, 2012

Whats been baking?

Chelsea Buns ( Yeast bread filled with almonds, raisins and flavoured with cinnamon)

Sweet cherry tarts 

Pineapple Upside down cake

May 14, 2012

On Black Sisters' Street by Chika Unigwe

Recently I have been reading many Indian authors and wanted to read a book set outside the Indian subcontinent. This is how I came to pick up this book while browsing through some blog reviews.

Set in the red light district of Brussels, four women from various parts of Africa end up serving clients as prostitutes, and living a life unknown to them and searching for the riches which they came in quest of. Each of their story is unique, broken home, teenage pregnancy, war crimes and incest. It is a small yet different world which each of these ladies share with the reader. One of the women die mysteriously, and her only fault was that she tried to come out of the system and have a life which would be deemed normal in the eyes of the world. She befriends a man who would like to be part of her life knowing her complete story, and this again is her fault. She is to have sold her life to the pimps who make money off her and nothing can stop this money from flowing in.

Each of these women have a story to tell and a life to speak of which they left behind them when they chose to come to Europe and work as a prostitute. Each of them left out of frustration, hunger, poor living conditions and when they see what they are offered here in terms of food and a roof over them, in return selling their body seems a small price to pay.

When I read this novel, all I could think of was how it was always the same story for women wherever they are in this world. They are treated as a source of pleasure, a route to procreation, someone to turn to and demand anything. But, never are they given control over their lives. The language of the book is simple but the style is very different from anything I have read till date. There is a difference in the language which I do now know what to attribute to except for the ethnicity of the author. There are many words which are used in the native dialects of the characters which also lends a great deal of depth to the story. It makes one absorb the culture and you also appreciate e author's true story through the use of foreign language. 

This is not a book which I would term as depicting a feminist viewpoint, as all it does portray is the struggle women endure and the atrocities they are subjected to. It shows women who have chosen a path which is so difficult. but they are left with no choice and each with their own pushing factors, walk down the path which they never thought they would. I was drawn to this book primarily as it was a completely new author for me, but I enjoyed reading this book and seeing the point of view of women and how a circumstance, a single circumstance, can throw your life hay-wire. 

May 10, 2012

Crochet Tissue Box Cover

A crochet tissue box cover caught my fancy recently when I was browsing some sites and I have finally managed to complete this a few weeks back as a gift for my mom.. a sort of birthday gift ( her bday was in March) and a mother's day gift all rolled into one. 

I thought it came out pretty neat, and the work involved was not difficult just tedious. I am sure there are many folks out there who can have a look at the picture below and replicate this :) I am no where without instructions, so I did buy the pattern.