Thursday, August 11, 2011

Chocolate Walnut Biscotti

It was really just the name and the photos that made me wanna bake these little treats. And as earlier mentioned, I’m a sucker for intriguing, foreign sounding names. Biscotti. Big smile.:)

So I used Deeba’s adapted version of this recipe. She has tweaked the recipe into healthiness by mixing some atta into the flour, adding olive oil and reducing the quantity of sugar. I swapped out the almonds for walnuts. I’m also happy coz it a’int got no butter. Which should please my father, to whom these are dedicated. Happy 55th Dad!!!

While these were baking, the house smelled exactly like a cookie shop should. Mine turned out to be a little too dry and hard. I’d recommend one try out both versions of the recipe to find the one that suits your taste. 


These biscotti are best eaten with coffee. They make for an excellent emergency chocolate fix. Interesting trivia: Biscotti is a traditionally Italian treat which is baked twice over.They are also very long lasting when stored in an airtight container.

My First Cookbook Review

I am not the kind of person who re-reads a book till it falls apart. I enjoy the first read; where I get to meet characters, imagine locations, follow plotlines and revel in surprise endings. Now having studied literature, I also mentally make notes; forming critiques, applying theories, noting illustrations, etc. So, a book that makes me lose track ‘cause I’m laughing my heart out comes rarely. And ‘The Sweet Life in Paris’ by David Lebovitz is just such a book. Published in 2009 by a division of Random House, its 29 chapters are filled with the author’s stories along with 50 recipes.
As a popular blogger turned author, living in Paris no less, it would be easy to dismiss his work as yet another clichéd work on ‘French food’. Nothing could be further away from the truth. His engaging and charming narration of personal stories quickly draws the reader in. What keeps that attention is the totally unique, fresh perspective to this ancient, historical city. It is his aim to show Paris as ‘a big city with flaws just like any other major metropolis’. And he succeeds with anecdotes about the salesmen, bureaucracy, street manners, the ritualistic hazing he must undergo to fit in, etc. Thus through his work, Lebovitz is able to take a city replete with clichés and humanize it.

As a migrant from San Francisco, USA, Lebovitz shows an admirable ability to critique his fellow Americans as much as he does the locals. He lightly mocks the fanny pack carrying, culture ignorant American tourist. At the same time, he bursts out against the poor customer service in banks, supermarkets, etc. Even if one does not enjoy baking, this book is a highly entertaining read.

But it is really the food gyaan that Lebovitz excels in. His food tips and recipes have been meticulously researched and tested. In fact, it is his ‘friendly and approachable style’ to food that makes him popular among chefs and bakers across the world. He provides comprehensive cooking tips on storage, serving, etc. At the end of the book is a detailed list of resources for products in France and USA. My only grouse with the book is the black and white photographs. Any reader of his blog can attest to his exceptional food photography skills. 

I have baked a number of dishes from this gem of a book. Example: Chocolate Mousse, Chocolate Spice Bread, Hot Chocolate, Dulche De Leche Brownies, etc. As a novice baker, I can assure anyone of the technical information it provides. If one is passionate about this craft, I’d strongly recommend this book. It is easily available here.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Not Just Another Lemon Tree

As a child, summer vacations always meant a long stay with my grandparents in Baroda, Gujarat. Now, most Gujarati residences would be a bungalow made complete with a ‘hichka’ (swing) and a garden. The daily cooking would use ingredients like curry leaf, mint, lime, raw mango, etc easily available in the house garden.  One of my favorite memories of that home is me relaxing with a book on the swing in the front yard. The hichka was set up in the shade of a large, flourishing lime tree. I have experienced few moments as peaceful and calming as those spent on that swing; the song of the koyal filling my dull city ears; the citrusy smell of the lime mixed with that of the flowers.

Of course now, the concept of a summer vacation is over. The entire structure, texture and feel of the house have changed. However, the lime tree still stands, still giving plentiful of its fruit. As is custom, I returned from Baroda recently with a few kilos of limes. As a sort of tribute to these memories, I baked a lime meringue tart. The recipe is available here. And although it was way to tart for my liking, it turned out quite well. 
I still have two jars of the lime filling in the fridge, begging to be used. Once sweetened further, I hope to experience again the childhood memories the fragrance evokes. 

Totally unrelated but fun to listen:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Apricot Jam Tart

I recently joined a book club called ‘This Book Makes Me Cook’. It combines two of my favorite activities: reading and cooking. And this month’s selection was the Malory Towers series by Enid Blyton. Now it seems appropriate that I should begin here. Let me explain:

As a child, I was a voracious reader and Enid Blyton single handedly shaped the way I was to view the world for a few years. I grew up believing that boarding school trumped day school, that vacations should always involve adventure, freedom and food. Lots of food! As far as I was concerned there was nothing as glorious as ‘foreign food’. Clotted cream, hunks of bread, potted meat, scones and cake were the only enjoyable food. 

Now of course, I know that clotted cream is malai which I detest. My first encounter with a British styled tea left me thoroughly disappointed. It just was not as I had imagined it. All my grand ideas crumbled down in the face of my very obvious post colonial reality.
Yet, traces of these desires stay with me and creep up from time to time in my baking. Any success in such an endeavor leads to much rejoicing. And today was one such time. 

In the second novel of the series, the girls at Malory Towers are enjoying half term by the swimming pool. To add to the special occasion the kitchen had provided jam tarts, strawberries and ice cream. I choose to make a jam tart as that particular scene stayed with me long after I had finished reading the novel.
(It also reminded me of the little jam tarts that were available at a bakery near my office.)

I chose this recipe by Monsieur Lebovitz. As I did not have cornmeal on hand, I just used flour instead. I also used an organic apricot conserve purchased from FabIndia. I added some ground cloves and ginger juice to the jam to bring in some spice and so reduce the tanginess.
Making the tart itself was quite simple and the result lived up to the expectation. Next time though, I am going to take David’s suggestion and serve it with some ice cream. 


Blyton’s works today are a symbol to me: of my childhood, of fanciful imaginations, of desires for culinary reality to match those imaginations, of a gradual disillusionment and of accepting reality. I think today my baking too reflects a similar pattern. Words in a food blog or magazine bring to life a certain dish or ingredient. My baking is an attempt to realize that magic for myself. I look forward to more such magic wafting around in this blog. :D