Wow! We are nearing the end now, only to begin something new. This cycle never felt this surreal before.
May be it is an age thing.
I haven’t yet settled into my 30’s . It worries me to see the little changes that are happening every single day that mark a little deterioration. A grey hair, that slowing down of pace, that need to sit down a second after a 30 minute run, that dejection at the discovery that my favourite stores do not have my current dress size, the increasing responsibilities and the inability to relax. 2 years ago I did not feel this way. As 2012 approaches at a neck-break speed, I want to hold on to 2011 a little longer only to realize how futile it is. Until 2 years ago, I embraced each year with the such furor and excitement that it would have felt a little short of being annoying.
Yes it is definitely an age thing.
2012 makes me jittery as there are many things that worry me. I do my best to push them back since I know everything will settle itself the way it does, on its own. I hope it does. Even pray.
2011 was a blessed year for me. It was a year that let me settle in this new country as I found new friends and interests. It offered me the luxury of time to engage with my creative side through writing, blogging, cooking, baking, photography and so much more. I know for a fact that this investment will not go in waste. While I worry about how 2012 is going to treat me, I also feel content in many ways that eluded me for so long. For long, I tried to find my calling but got no answers inspite of much contemplation. But life, in its funny little way, showed me my calling, silently, slowly and without warning. That I understand what my calling is now, is also may be because I am certain age now. I am settling down, my thoughts are settling down, my life is settling down.
So it is an age thing after all.
Who knew there would be such grace in deterioration!
But as I age, other things in my life only improve; my marriage and my understanding of how to balance everything in life. My hubby and I celebrated our 6th Wedding Anniversary and it was a quiet affair. No party, no excess of any sort was required. Just us.
We felt thankful about how our life had shaped, that we have each other and we have Mimi. We realized that inspite of the incredible comfort that we share, we will never take each other for granted. We also reminded ourselves that despite the little ups and downs, we shared a friendship that is true and rare – and that we are safe in this marriage we have built and are building every day.
So now the age thing isn’t so bad.
The Wedding Anniversary celebration was marked by the cutting of our favourite – The Black Forest Cake. A few hours of toil in the kitchen paid off when it was well received and savored.
Recipe for the Black Forest Cake
Adapted from here
For the chocolate sponge
250g caster sugar
200g plain flour
50g cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the cherry compote
1/3 cup caster sugar
600g pitted fresh cherries, halved
1 tbs rum
For the cherry sugar syrup
90g caster sugar
¼ cup cherry juice
For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse
½ cup caster sugar
½ cup hazelnuts, toasted lightly and skinned
300g chopped dark chocolate
3 egg yolks
300ml thickened cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the mascarpone cream
1 tsp vanilla bean paste
2 tbs icing sugar
For the dark chocolate ganache
200g chopped dark chocolate
shaved chocolate – to decorate
fresh cherries- to decorate
1. For the chocolate sponge, preheat oven to 160°C . Grease and line 2 x 20cm springform cake pans.
2. Add eggs and sugar to a heatproof bowl of an electric mixer, and set over a saucepan of simmering water over very low heat. Whisk the mixture until 37°C. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat with an electric mixer on a medium-low speed for 5-8 minutes or until the mixture has cooled and thickened to a mousse-like consistency. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder together twice. Using a large metal spoon, fold the dry mixture into the egg mixture in 3 batches until combined, adding the vanilla extract with the first dry batch.
3. Pour the mixture into the lined cake pans and smooth surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until sponge springs back when lightly touched. Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pans, then turn out onto wire racks until cake has cooled completely.
4. For the cherry compote, add the sugar to a non-stick saucepan and place over medium heat. Once the sugar begins to dissolve add the cherries and cook until they start to release their juices. Add the rum and cook for 10-15 minutes or until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Strain, reserving liquor.
5. For the cherry syrup, heat 170ml water and the sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and stir in the reserved cherry juice and compote liquor. Allow to cool.
6. For the chocolate hazelnut praline mousse, line a baking sheet. In a dry heavy-based saucepan, cook sugar over medium heat, stirring, until melted. Once melted, cook without stirring, swirling pan, until lightly golden. Add hazelnuts, stirring until well coated. Immediately pour mixture onto the baking sheet and cool completely. Break praline into pieces. Place into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Set aside.
7. Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Whisk the egg yolks in a small heatproof bowl. Heat 250ml of the cream in a small saucepan over low heat. Stir through half of the hot cream into the egg yolks. Return the mixture to the saucepan over low heat and stir until thickened. Strain into a clean bowl. Stir the melted chocolate into the hot custard. Add the vanilla and allow to cool. Whisk the remaining cream until stiff peaks form. Fold into the chocolate mixture with the praline, until just combined. Set aside.
9. For the mascarpone cream, beat the mascarpone, vanilla and sugar in a bowl until smooth and slightly thicker in volume.
10. For the chocolate ganache, melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Set aside. Bring the cream to just below boiling point in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat, then add the melted chocolate and stir until smooth. Allow to cool until thick but still pouring consistency.
11. To assemble the cake, slice both cakes into thirds. Place the base of 1 cake onto a serving plate and brush with some of the cherry syrup. Spread over half of the chocolate praline mousse.
12. Place the next layer of cake onto a board, and brush with cherry syrup. Spread over half of the mascarpone cream. Divide the cherries into two parts for two separate layers. Place cherries around the border of the cake, 5mm from its edge and scatter remaining in the middle. Carefully remove layer from the board and place on top of the first layer. Repeat each layering process on the board (you will have 1 spare slice of cake), starting with the praline mousse and ending with the cherries on the mascarpone cream.
13. Place the final layer of the cake on a wire rack sitting over a baking tray. Evenly pour the ganache over the cake, ensuring it is completely coated. When the ganache has set, place on top of the layered cake. Decorate with shaved chocolate and fresh cherries.
This is a perfect special occasion cake and the flavours are simply fantastic. All the layers blend beautifully and each mouthful is like Christmas in your mouth. So that was how we toasted our marriage and celebrated being together.
But this post wouldn’t quite be complete if I were not to mention that the Black Forest assembling was a tough task since I haven’t yet perfected the art of slicing the cake in threes or twos. As I assembled one layer over the other, it started to tilt on one side because of the irregularity in the slices. I was angry and disappointed about how I ruined so many hours of work by my careless slicing. I went ahead with the final pruning and kept it in the refrigerator for chilling, checking it time and again to see if the layers hadn’t slid down. All of sudden, I just felt I should just let it be. Nobody was judging me and I knew what a sincere effort I had put into making this fabulous cake. An hour in the chiller and the cake looked perfect ( atleast in my eyes) inspite of its imperfection because it was a labor of love. That was the moment when I had an important insight.
Based on that insight, for the first time in years, I have decided not to make any resolutions for the New Year. This comes from a realization that in order to grow, improve and learn, I will have to let go. I know how difficult it is for me to relinquish control and just let things be.
So 2012 will be the year of ‘Just Being’.
Wishing each one of you a Sparkling New Year, full of joy, luck and prosperity. God Bless!!