“We have so much, too much, that we can buy, yet the basic labor of doing, the making with our own hands, is what enlivens us and makes us feel human." Dan Lepard

Monday, 27 June 2016

Banana Bundt Cake with Caramel Glaze


 

Mangoes and Jamuns, wood apples and lychees, fragrance of mogra, blossoms of Gulmohur, songs of koel and the sonorous rendition of cuckoo- this is the stuff our summer is made of. Come morning and there is a rush to collect ripe mangoes of the hundred year old mango tree. Mangoes fall and hide in the fallen leaves. Kids and squirrels seem to vie with each other to grab the fruit first. Baels remain hidden in the tall grass.  They are ripe and pulpy and make the best summer cooler.   Jamuns fall on the dry leaves sound like thick drops of rain and that gets louder as a strong breeze knocks them off their branches. Birds, squirrels monkeys and men are feasting on the nature’s bounty.


A bunch of bananas begin to overripe as no one is interested in the humble fruit these days. We decide to bake a cake with bananas and thus salvage some.


Besides adding moistness to the crumb, bananas add a great flavour to the cakes. Bananas have a great nutritive value too.


Here is banana cake that comes together with simple ingredients that you’ll always have in your pantry. Serve plain and you’ll enjoy the rich flavour or drizzle with homemade caramel sauce and transform it into a delish dessert. Either way, you will love it.


Banana Bundt Cake with Caramel Glaze
Ingredients
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) butter at room temperature
1 cup castor sugar
1 large free range egg
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 medium bananas pureed in a blender
½ cup thick slightly sour yogurt (beaten till smooth)
Method
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Generously grease one medium size Bundt pan with butter. Dust well with flour so that all the corners and edges are well coated.
Whisk together first three ingredients in a large bowl.
In another bowl, beat butter and sugar till pale and puffy. Add egg and mix well. Add pureed bananas, vanilla extract and yogurt.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir till well combined. Do not over mix.
Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or till the top is golden brown and the cake shrinks form edges and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Remove from the oven and let cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes.
Invert onto a cooling rack and it let cool completely.
Drizzle caramel sauce before serving. (Find the recipe of Caramel Sauce Here)

Note- The cake can also be baked in a regular 8 inch round cake pan. Slice the cake next day the flavours will develop fully and the crumb will be moist and soft.




Thursday, 16 June 2016

Salted Caramel Sauce


It is always great to have salted caramel sauce in your refrigerator. Sweet, sticky, buttery caramel sauce has a unique taste and flavour. Drizzle on ice creams, cupcakes, quick breads, cakes, cookies, sweet buns, scones or just dip your fruits in it. It can transform ordinary sweets into delish desserts. You will even love a spoonful right out of the jar. 
It is easy to make at home and can sit in the refrigerator for about three weeks.


Salted Caramel Sauce
Ingredients
1 cup granulated sugar (200g)
6 tablespoons butter (3/4 stick), cubed
½ cup heavy cream (120ml)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Method
Take sugar in a thick bottom pan. Cook over medium heat. Keep stirring with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon.
Sugar will first become lumpy, but eventually melt and become amber coloured liquid. Keep stirring. 
Once the sugar melts completely,   becomes uniform in texture and turns golden, add butter and stir till butter melts completely (take care as the caramel is very hot and will bubble while adding butter). Add vanilla extract and salt and mix well.
Add cream slowly, stirring continuously.
Let the sauce boil for a minute. Turn off the heat. Let it cool. Store in a clean dry jar.
You may refrigerate it for three weeks.




Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Tomato Herb Focaccia



Some tomato plants are still surviving the cruel summer in a corner of our backyard. Though they look uncouth and pallid, the plants are being watered religiously and our reward is a batch of very red, tiny and succulent tomatoes that keep appearing in the lanky branches with unfailing regularity.


Yesterday, while watering the plants, we saw a Crow Pheasant behind the curry leaf shrub. It had water from the bowl and perched itself on the higher branches of Custard apple tree. We heard its call “Oomph, oomp, oomp…..” Crow Pheasant has made a comeback after years. In spite of the rampant concretization, birds visiting our small kitchen garden is a source of great joy and a reason to express gratitude to the Almighty.




We decided not to disturb it, collected some tomatoes and left immediately.


Later in the day, a Focaccia was baked with garden fresh Tomatoes and herbs.


Bread baking is an ecstatic experience. Nothing beats a homemade bread.
Focaccia is crisp, golden, light, salty & oily Italian flat bread. It is generally topped with herbs and also with cheese, onions and vegetables. Focaccia can be used as a side to meals, as a base for pizza and also as sandwich bread.
Focaccia pairs really well with soups and stews. It can also be had with simple homemade dips.
 

Tomato Herb Focaccia
Ingredients

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ instant dry yeast
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons Italian spice mix or 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, thyme and rosemary
1 teaspoon minced garlic
4 tablespoons olive oil (2 tablespoons for dough, rest, to oil the bowl and to drizzle)
1 cup warm water
½ tablespoon sugar
4 cherry tomatoes sliced into half or medium size tomatoes thinly sliced
Method
Whisk together first six ingredients in a bowl. Use only 2 cups flour.
In a large bowl, add water and sugar.  Now add dry ingredients and beat till you get a shaggy dough.
Transfer dough to floured counter, add remaining ½ cup flour slowly  and knead till it becomes soft and plaint- approx. 6 -8 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl and turn around so that it is coated with oil all around. Cover and let it rise in a warm place until double.
Punch dough and divide into two parts. Place one part on a greased baking tray. Using your fingers, push and press the dough from center to out into a 10-inch circle. Repeat the same with the other half.
Cover with a kitchen towel and leave to rise for another 30 to 40 minutes.
With the finger tips, dimple the top of each focaccia. Drizzle olive oil over the top. Sprinkle salt, herbs and press down tomato slices / halves evenly across the top. Let it sit for 15 minutes. In the meantime, preheat oven to 190 degrees C.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until brown.
Cool on the rack.

"Sharing with the Bread Box, hosted by Karen's Kitchen Stories."





Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Banana Walnut Bread and The Mourning Oven



Dear Dad,
Yesterday we heard a loud thud in the backyard. We knew a bael (wood apple) had fallen from the tree. It was first of the season - ripe and sweet smelling. You would have loved it. The jamuns too, have turned purple and plump. Mogra has come up all over the garden and in the backyard. Mom decorated your portrait with the flowers and the fragrance wafted all over. The red Amaranth that you wanted us to plant has come up well.  Summer Coriander has also become lush.  Mangoes are beginning to ripen.
Recent showers have made Aloes fleshy and green. The football lilies are looking very beautiful. Rain lilies are popping up behind the hedge. We will surely collect their seeds and scatter them in other parts of the lawn exactly the way you used to do.
Wish you were with us to savour the beauty of the garden, the sweetness of the fruits and fragrance of the flowers!



Love knows no logic, understands no reasoning and abides by no concepts. My baking has a deep connection with my Dad. He loved to bake and I inherited his passion, myself falling in love with the art. My oven stopped working after he left us.  Thinking that it was a ten-year-old, over used fatigued machine that had outlived its functionality, we contemplated on getting a new one. For the last time the wires were checked, it was shrugged and shaken but it showed no life.

Almost a month later, a random attempt to toast bread took us by surprise. The timer began to tick and rods became fiery hot. It was working. My oven was mourning. Feelings are vibrations…..energies that exist in the universe and at some point in time, we experience events beyond our comprehension. My oven was mourning dad’s passing away.


This is the first bake after the break. Life is limping back to normalcy so is my oven.



A simple low-fat banana bread baked to salvage the overripe bananas was delicious.



Banana Walnut Bread
Ingredients
1 cup mashed bananas
1 teaspoon soda
½ cup yogurt
¼ cup olive oil
¾ cup organic palm sugar / brown sugar / white sugar (powdered)
1 large free range egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon honey
½ cup toasted walnuts
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Method
In a large bowl, mix together mashed bananas and yogurt. Add baking soda.
In the meantime, whisk together last four ingredients in another bowl.
Grease and line one 8 inch x 4-inch loaf pan. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
To the banana mixture, add olive oil, vanilla extract, honey, egg, and sugar. Beat well till you get a smooth mixture.
Add dry ingredients in three shifts mixing till well incorporated. Do not over mix.
Fold in walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes or till a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the rack.




Thursday, 19 May 2016

Lemon Squash


It is midafternoon. The Sun is mercilessly spewing heat with all belligerence. The ground is parched and littered with dead leaves. Trees look listless, their leaves are withered. Our squash bottle has been sitting atop a pillar in the Sun for the last ten days. As I open the door to fetch it, a thirsty Cuckoo looks at me from the food table. 


She drinks water but that too does not seem to quench her thirst.


 She is soon joined by a male cuckoo who drinks water too, and, the two fly away to the higher branches of Jamun tree.



Soon kids arrive from the school. Sweating and panting. A glass of chilled lemon squash does the magic. It is soothing and calming. Some goes into the popsicle moulds to be enjoyed later as lemon bars.



Summer is here and it is the time to indulge in juices, drinks, sherbets and squashes of choice. A plethora of options are available in the market. A variety of fruit juices in tetra packs and bottles in different flavours and colours vie for attention in the stores. An unlimited array of instant squashes and coolers too compete with each other. You never seem to have enough of them. But, nothing beats homemade squashes and sherbets. Homemade drinks ensure the quality and purity of ingredients.
Here is a simple recipe for Lemon Squash. Indulge in the lemony sweetness and freshness without colours or preservatives. This squash can last up to one year.

Lemon Squash
Ingredients
1 kg fresh lemons
650 grams sugar
Method
Sterilize a wide mouthed glass bottle along with the lid. To sterilize the bottle, place it in a large pot. Fill up the pot with water covering the bottle. Bring the water to rolling boil. Boil for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat. Place the lid in the pot. Remove from water after 15 minutes. Dry.
Squeeze juice from lemons. Pass it through a strainer with large holes to remove the pips.
Fill up the sterilized bottle with sugar. Add lemon juice. Secure the lid.
Keep the bottle in Sun for 12 days. Shake the bottle every day.
Sugar will dissolve by keeping the bottle in the Sun. The squash will be ready by the end of 12 days.
Take ¼ glass of squash. Fill up the glass with cold water. Serve with chopped mint leaves and lemon slices.




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