The 7*7 Blogging Award 

An interesting award comes my way called the  the 7*7 blogging award and Deboshree of Saddi Delhi has passed on this meaningful one to me. Meaningful because this is one award that is going to make me go back to my archives and dwell upon how I fared in the last 2 years. Thank you Deboshree for sending this across and making me and my blog feel so appreciated. You all should go and check out Deboshree’s blog  to be charmed by her wit and her beautiful writing.

7x7award

To begin this, I need to spell out the rules first:

1: Tell everyone something about yourself that nobody else knows.

2: Link to a post I think fits the following categories: The Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.

3: Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers.

I. Something about myself that you may not have known before : As a child I wanted to marry a Japanese guy because I was crazy about Jackie Chan!!! It wasn’t until later that I got to know that he is actually Chinese. I may have seen all this movies. Yes, every one of them. I thought that all Japanese would know how to fight like him; as if Kung Fu was embedded in their genetic makeup. Years, later I might have realized part of that dream because I met my husband when he was working for a Japanese company! ( corny!!)

II. The Most Beautiful Piece, Most Helpful Piece, Most Popular Piece, Most Controversial Piece, Most Surprisingly Successful Piece, Most Underrated Piece, Most Pride-worthy Piece.

1. The Most Beautiful Piece -“She came, she saw and she conquered”

This post, in my opinion is the most beautiful post for one reason alone – Mimi. You have to see it to believe it!!

2. Most Helpful Piece  – “When will I be ready to be a Parent”.

I penned this post with absolutely nothing in mind but I got series of emails from friends and random strangers about how I reflected their state of mind in my post word to word. I was very happy that many people found the post helpful with respect to coming in terms with their feelings about having a baby. I had to struggle a lot and I realize that many people do too.

3. Most Popular Piece – Thoughts on the year-end, an anniversary and a Black Forest Cake

This post was hugely popular because of the content and the photographs. On the day I posted it, it received 500 hits in a few hours. I received many emails and plenty of mentions on twitter and Facebook about how much everybody loved the post and could relate to the growing old thing.  The photographs received a lot of appreciation and found their way on Tastespotting and Foodgawker. I have realized that some of my better posts are the ones that I have typed out without a thought in my head. Feelings, emotions just tumble out to convey what my heart truly feels at that moment. I zone out for that amount of time and am absent to the rest of the world.  Writing such posts has made me believe that I am meant to write and I shall never give this up.

4. Most Controversial Piece- Living the Guilt free life

I got plenty of emails after I put this post on my blog. I was facing a lot of flak from some people in my life about a certain decision and I was very frustrated. I wrote this from a hotel room in London and writing this put many things in perspective. The comments and emails were so encouraging that I quickly found my center. Thanks to all the people who read , emailed and commented.

5. Most Surprisingly Successful Piece -A date to remember

When I wrote this post, I had just begun to find my feet in writing fiction and this was the first such piece that I dared to put on my blog for people to read. I did not expect people to read it and comment because it wasn’t spectacular by any stretch of the imagination. But because it was different compared to my other posts, it became hugely successful and I found more confidence which resulted in a full blown novel on my other blog.

6. Most Underrated Piece – An experiment that was a White Bean Salad

I think this post was a little ahead of its time on my blog. I wanted to do something different in terms of writing, the subject matter, using analogy etc but it didn’t quite make the impact I had hoped for. It still remains one of my favourite pieces of writing  and the salad recipe was a good one too.

7. Most Pride-worthy Piece – Diff’rent Strokes & Moments of Joy

It is a tie between two posts that are so close to my heart.

Diff’ rent Strokes is a one of the first posts that I truly enjoyed writing. It talks about a dilemma that I face constantly while bringing up a child who belongs to two starkly different cultures.

Moments of Joy – Pure joy is a kind that you cannot really share with anyone. It passes in a fraction of a second but it remains with you for the rest of your life. I have written about such joys in this post.

III. Pass this on to 7 fellow bloggers

I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my appreciation to Cassandra, Bulbul, Jahn, Nashira, Prateek, Deepthi, Lahari who are fantastic mix of personal, fashion and food bloggers.

Thank you again, Deboshree as I enjoyed writing this post. It was fun to go back and read the older posts and laugh myself silly at the little things that seemed so awful at that point in time.

Classic “Compensatory” Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate Chip Cookies command three things – you cannot stop at just one and you can never get tired of them and they beg to be made again and again; especially if they are Dorie Greenspan’s best Chocolate Chip cookies ever!!

If you are wondering why I have called them ‘ Compensatory’ then you ought to read this post.

Mimi loves chocolate chip cookies and I have made these many times before but they vanish before I can photograph them. So this time I planned  my baking such that I had some time to photograph before they got devoured.

 

I clicked a few pictures while they were baking their way to the chocolate spotted golden discs. It is so wonderful to see each scoop of dough spread out into a beautiful cookie. Each one unique and gorgeous in its own unique way. That is the most beautiful part of having home-baked goods.

 

This recipe is a Dorie Greenspan recipe and like all her recipes they tend to be butter and sugar heavy. Since I have already made these couple of times, I have tweaked the butter and the sugar according to the way we like it. Mimi doesn’t like it if it’s too sweet. She enjoys the dull sweetness from the bits of chocolate scattered intermittently in the cookie. She is my official tester of my cookie dough. If she licks it off the ladle and doesn’t spit it out, it means it really is very, very good.

Recipe for the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 25-27 large cookies

Ingredients

All Purpose flour – 2 cups

Salt- 1 tsp

Baking soda – 3/4 tsp

Butter – 225 gms but I used 200 gms, which works perfectly well

Caster Sugar – 3/4 cup ( original called for 1 cup)

Light brown sugar – 1/2 cup ( original called for 2/3)

Vanilla essence – 2 tsps

Eggs – 2, large

chocolate chips ( bittersweet) – 2 cups ( I had run out of these and used actual bitter sweet chunks of chocolate)

Toasted walnuts – 1 cup, finely chopped

Preparation

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F/190C/ gas mark 5. Line the baking sheet with a parchment paper

2. Whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda

3. Working with a stand mixer, beat the butter on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth.

4. Add sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so., until well blended

5. Beat in the vanilla

6. Add eggs one at a time, beating well for a minute or so before adding the other egg and doing the same.

7. Reduce the speed of the stand mixer and add the dry mixture in 3 lots and then add the chocolate and nuts

8. Spoon the dough on the parchment paper keep enough distance between two such scoops so that there is enough space for them to spread out and shine.

9. Bake the cookies one sheet at a time and rotating the sheet at the mid way point for 10 to 12 minutes or until they are brown at the edges and golden at the center. They may be soft in the middle but that is alright. When they cool down they harden sufficiently giving it the right kind of bite.

10. Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully using a wide spatula transfer them to a separate plate to cool to room temperature.

 

So it is as easy as that and still happens to be a favourite with my family. Do try these and  see yourself reaching for your cookie jar every now and then.

Hot Cross Buns – Fresh From the Oven Challenge – April

For this month’s Fresh from the Oven Challenge, we have Hot Cross Buns for a good reason. Easter and Hot Cross Buns are synonymous and I had been meaning to make these for as long as I remember. Little Loaf challenged us to make these and I jumped at the chance. I had another reason to make these; I had to salvage my image as a good baker at my workplace where I had managed to commit a severe faux pas. You could read about it here.

The Hot cross buns though wonderful to taste, didn’t look very uniform in shape despite my best efforts. By the time I got to my third batch, I even burnt some. In my oven, I can bake only nine pieces at one go. To have a uniform golden colour, I had to light ( yes I have a gas oven) the top burner for the last few minutes of the bake time.

Just before they went into the oven

I used a recipe from the latest issue of the BBC GoodFood Magazine. Little Loaf’s recipe seemed just as good, but it would have required me to take a print or write the recipe down, so I preferred what I had on hand – the recipe from the Magazine. There was a method nicely described to get all your crosses perfectly but I had little patience and not the best piping bag to help me. But these are cute, methinks.

Fresh from the Oven and with jam glaze

Recipe for Hot Cross Buns

Paul Hollywood’s Hot Cross Buns with jam glaze.

Makes 15

Ingredients

For the buns

Milk – 300 ml full fat plus 2 tbsp more

Butter – 50 gm

Strong Bread flour – 500 gm

salt – 1 tsp

caster sugar – 75 gm

Sunflower oil – 1 tbsp

Instant yeast – 7 gm

egg – 1, beaten

Mixed dried fruit peel, raisins, dried apricots – 125 gm

Ground cinnamon – 1 tsp

Ground nutmeg – 1 tsp

zest of 1 orange

For the cross

Plain flour + extra for dusting – 75 gm

For the glaze

3 tbsp of jam of your choice – I had plum and fig on me. So I used that.

Preparation

1. Bring the milk to boil, then remove from the heat and add butter. Leave to cool until it reaches hand temperature. It shouldn’t cool down entirely.

2. Put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Make a well in the center. Pour in the warm milk and butter mixture, the add the egg. Using a wooden spoon mix well and then bring everything together with your hands until you have a stick dough. Mine was too sticky. I had to add plenty of extra flour to make it manageable. So be a little conservative as you add the milk into the flour and add as required.

3. Tip on the lightly floured surface and knead by holding the dough with one hand and stretching it with the heel of the other hand, then folding it back on itself. Repeat for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size and a finger pressed into it leaves a dent.

4. With the dough still in the bowl, tip all the fruit peel, orange zest, and anything that you want to add along with the spices. Knead all this into the dough and make sure everything is evenly distributed. Leave it to rise for 1 hour more, or until doubled in size again, covered by some well oiled cling film to stop the dough getting a crust.

5. Divide the dough into 15 even pieces ( about 75 gm per piece). Roll each piece into a smooth ball on a lightly floured work surface. Arrange the buns on one or two baking trays lined with parchment, leaving enough space for the dough to expand. Cover with a clean tea towel., then set it aside to prove for 1 more hour.

6. Heat oven to 220 C/gas mark 7. Mix the flour with about 5 tbsp of water to make the paste for the cross- add 1 tbsp at a tim, so you add just enough for a thick paste. Spoon into a piping bag with a small nozzle. Pipe a cross along each bun and bake for 20 minutes on middle shelf of the oven until golden brown. If like mine, your oven heats alternately, then after 17 minutes, switch on the top burner and let the top of the buns brown to a golden hue for the last 3 minutes.

7. Gently heat the jam of your choice to melt and get rid of any huge chunks. Using a pastry brush, gently brush over the top of the warm buns while the jam is till warm

It was a wonderful experience and all of these seemingly never ending steps came together quickly.  My colleagues took not one, not two but three servings and kept coming back for more. They may not be the prettiest looking buns and hence they didn’t inspire the photographer in me.

With work and responsibilities at home taking a whole lot of my time, it has become difficult to keep up with blogging and my other favourite blogs. I hope to correct it soon once I find the rhythm back.

Until then, I hope you all had a swell Easter gorging on all the wonderful chocolate laden goodies and some warm, fresh out of the oven – Hot Cross Buns.