Orange cake with Mascarpone Buttercream & Gulab Jamuns

2018 granted us a silent, wintery Deepavali. Not that we don’t enjoy the festive ruckus that goes hand in hand with an Indian festival but an unruffled celebration is one we welcome as well.

Come sundown, little tealights were sprinkled all about the house, serial lights swayed on the balcony railing and after devouring a traditional homemade feast, we huddled in the glowing light watching romcoms whilst playing ‘fetch’ with Elaichi, our Labrador puppy. But that wasn’t all. I also gave into one of my fancy whims to create a dessert that not only celebrates and caters to Indian festivities but also one that dons the attire of a western dessert. One that in every spoonful appeased every single one of our sweet-desiring taste buds. Allow me to present to you my Orange Cake with Gulab Jamuns and Mascarpone Buttercream.

Let’s talk about the components of this gateau. Firstly, this EGGLESS cake employs fresh orange juice for its flavouring and I chose Mandarins which are only lemon-sized but brightly hued and slightly sweeter than the larger oranges. As the batter bakes and rises in the oven, you will find that your kitchen is verily a garden brimming with orange trees.


Next, the sweet saffron syrup. The cake is made moist with a warm saffron syrup which is essentially your Gulab Jamun syrup. I have shared the recipe for the syrup below but if you’re using store-bought gulab jamuns , just go ahead and use the same syrup that the jamuns are soaked in after warming it up a little. Then, we have a creamy Mascarpone buttercream that is slathered before two fragrant sponges are layered together.


I’ll admit I spent quite a bit of time debating if I should have gulab jamuns sandwiched between the cake layers or just adorned on top but I finally opted for the latter only because I wanted the best of everything in one bite: a burst of orange followed by a creamy, vanilla mascarpone and finally, the utter decadence of deep fried khoya and paneer. Again if you want a layer of indulgent gulab jamuns in the middle it can only be a good idea :). Either way, make sure every forkful has all the delicious components so you can get a complete, soulful dessert experience.

RECIPE FOR EGGFREE ORANGE, MASCARPONE AND GULAB JAMUN CAKE
Makes one 6″ 2-layered cake- serves 6
INGREDIENTS
For the Orange Cake
1 1/3 cup All Purpose Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
3/4 cup Granulated Sugar
3/4 cup Canola Oil
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice(I used Mandarins)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
1 tbsp orange zest
For the Saffron Syrup
10 strands of saffron
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water
For the Mascarpone Buttercream
1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
1/3 cup Mascarpone Cheese at room temperature
2 cup Icing sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste or 1 tsp Vanilla extract
3-4 tsp heavy cream
For Assembly
Atleast 6 gulab jamuns

DIRECTION
-First we make the saffron syrup(see notes). In a thick bottomed pan, add the sugar and water along with the saffron. Place on medium heat and let the sugar dissolve, which may take around 405 min. Then boil for 14-15 minutes and the syrup is ready.
-For the cake, preheat the oven to 350F. Grease cake pans with butter and place a round piece of parchment on the base. Dust the sides of the pan with flour.
-Zest the oranges and then squeeze fresh juice.
-In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, orange juice, canola oil and vanilla essence.
-Into the same bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: all purpose flour,baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix gently to combine with the wet mixture making sure there are no lumps.
– Finally fold in the orange zest and pour into the prepared pans. Bake for 25-30 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.
-Once the cakes are out of the oven, let them cool for 5min, then transfer the them to a parchment lined cookie sheet. Make a few holes on each cake with a toothpick and add 3 tbsp of syrup on each cake, 1 tablespoon at a time, using a pastry brush to gently spread it over the cake.
-Let the cakes cool completely.
-Meanwhile, make the Mascarpone Buttercream. (see notes)
You can either use a hand mixer or a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Add the butter, mascarpone, 3 tsp heavy cream and vanilla and whisk on medium until fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Then add the icing sugar and whisk again for 3-4 minutes until nice and creamy. Add more heavy cream and whisk only if the mixture looks crumbly. Keep aside.
To assemble, place the cake board on the turntable.
-Place the first layer of the cake on the cake board with a little bit of buttercream so that the cake stays in place while you work on it.
-Pour 2-3 tbsp of syrup again(1 tbsp at a time)  and gently spread it on the cake with a pastry brush. Spread a generous quantity of the Mascarpone buttercream. At this point, I like to place the cake in the refrigerator for about 5-10min to allow the buttercream to firm up a bit.
-Then place the second layer of cake on it. (Alternatively, if you like, cut up a few gulab jamuns and place on the cake, top with buttercream and then the second layer of cake. The flat side of the cake should face top.
-Next add buttercream in excess on the top of the second layer and using an offset spatula spread it all around the top of the cake and push it down to the sides. Using the same spatula, gently slather the sides of the cake with the buttercream(adding more if necessary) until the cake is completely masked. I chose to mask it only partially.
-Finally place the gulab jamuns on top, with fruits(optional) and drizzle more syrup.

Notes:
If the buttercream is too loose, thicken it by whisking in icing sugar. If it is too dry, add a few teaspoons of heavy cream to make it creamy.

Godi Tambittu/Wholewheat Ladoos

Deepavali may have come and gone by in a flash this year but that doesn’t mean the celebrations must cease. The winter breeze,  the gentle dance of the diya(traditional oil lamps) flames, the warm luminiscence emerging from the serial lights swinging in our balcony and the myriad avatars of sugar: I want to desperately hold on to these feelings. Lights must continue to shine bright and sweets must be devoured without restrain, Deepavali must continue. This festive season, I indulged in a fancy whim and created a ‘best of both worlds’ sort of dessert that I will share with you very soon. But today, allow me to share with you a traditional sweet treat that shines in simplicity and one that makes its presence in our kitchen every week. At the moment it is serving to treat post-festival blues, one ladoo at a time.


Many years ago, I first made this in my mother’s kitchen under her guidance. It was conjured as an offering to the Lord(Naivedyam), as part of our pooja(prayers). After the pooja, the ladoos vanished at the blink of an eye: we as a family are terribly impatient when it comes to desserts.
Now, the husband and me continue to make this in our kitchen every week and every Saturday at dawn, the air at home is fragrant with the aromas of jaggery, cardamom and gently roasted wheat flour. Even, Elaichi, our excited little puppy turns restless, yearning for a taste which he ensures he gets immediately after the offering.


These tambittus or ladoos are mildly sweetened with jaggery and flavoured with ghee and cardamom. It comes together oh so quickly, without any fuss. Also, they satiate those sudden sugar cravings and like I said post-festival/post-holiday blues. Perfect left plain but I sprinkled them with ground pistachios, dry coconut and rose petals to jazz them up just a tad. I really hope you try this one and like it as well.

45799096061_6c9bc64c08_o

RECIPE FOR GODI TAMBITTU
Makes 13

INGREDIENTS
1 cup Wheat flour
2/3 cup grated jaggery
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup milk
4 green cardamoms plus a pinch of sugar
2.5 tbsp Ghee plus more to roll the ladoos

METHOD
-Using a mortar and pestle, pound the cardamom seeds and the sugar to achieve a powder. Keep aside.
-In a thick bottomed kadai/wok, add 1 tbsp of ghee and allow to melt over medium heat.
To this, the whole wheat flour and saute continuously until there is a nice aroma. This should take 3-4 minutes.
-Meanwhile in small sauce pan add the jaggery and water. Place on medium heat, let the jaggery melt and come to simmer, remove from heat. We are looking for a thin syrup. Also, in another pan, heat the milk separately and let it come to boil.
-Once the wheat flour is roasted, add the jaggery syrup, milk, ground cardamom and mix well until a dough like consistency is formed. Make sure there are no lumps.
-Remove from heat. Apply some ghee to your hands and immediately(but carefully) roll  into ladoos .
(I used a measuring scale and each one was roughly 21 gms)
-Optional- can be sprinkled with pistachios, coconut and rose petals.
-Best served immediately but they are good for 2-3 days if stored in an air-tight container.

Pineapple Gojju

A motley group of thoughts implore me to reminisce home. It’s not the squish of summery peaches or the engulfing aroma of warm cookies when I walk into a mall although they’re just as pleasing. It’s more the rhythmic clunk of a ladle and an iron pan when amma roasts groundnuts and jaggery to appease my dad’s sweet tooth,  the voice of Subbalakshmi spinning through a languid morning, possibly even the faint whirr of vehicles outside our window but mostly, delicious thoughts of a meal feasted on a gigantic banana leaf.


South Indian gatherings have a flair for conjuring a loud rumpus and I mean this in a good way. Palpable excitement, colour and good food served on a plate shaped by Mother Nature herself .This oblong and dramatically designed leaf is generously laden with traditional and authentic dishes like Payasa(kheer), a sundry of Palyas(dry curries), Pickles. Chutneys, Dal(lentils), Sambar(spicy lentil stew), Rasam fragrant with ghee,Gojjus & more. The flavours emanating from the leaf dance delicately with those from the food and elevate a mere lunch to an experience fit for the Gods. Among the plethora of foods that land on the leaf, the one I yearn for the most is the Pineapple Gojju.


A gojju is essentially a savory side dish with a delicious intermingling of sweet, spicy and tangy. Sometimes cooked to create a stew-like dish but many times(like this one), it is  not.  These uncooked gojjus are referred to as Hasi Rasas(raw gojju) in Kannada because the mixture is not simmered. Lemons, raisins, raw mango etc be used to make this gojju but pineapples always have been a personal favourite.


The tang and sweet essences from pineapples mingle with the spices to create a sensational experience which when mopped up with cold curd-rice transpires into bliss. Or if you prefer, gently mix it with some hot rice and a tiny bit of oil to drive away those dreaded Monday afternoon blues. Pairs well with chapatis too. In fact this dish tastes better the following day owing to the pineapples marinating in it, making it a little sweeter and a whole lot more divine.
Hope you like this one!

RECIPE FOR PINEAPPLE GOJJU
INGREDIENTS
1/2 tsp oil
1/2 tbsp Urad dal
1/2 tbsp chana dal
1 tbsp Dhaniya/coriander seeds
1 tsp Menthe/Fenugreek seeds
13 dried Kashmiri Chillies
2 dried Guntoor Chillies(see notes)
A pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
3/4 cup dry coconut slices/VaNakobri
1/2 tbsp scant, thick tamarind paste(I used store-bought)
1/4 cup grated Jaggery
Salt to taste
1 cup Pineapple- chopped and cubed into 1 cm pieces
1 + scant 1/4 cup water
For tempering-
1 tbsp oil
A small handful of fresh curry leaves
1 tsp  mustard seeds

METHOD
-In a kadai/wok, heat 1/2 tsp oil. To this , add Urad Dal, Chana Dal, Menthe/Fenugreek,  seeds, Coriander seeds, Hing and both chillies. Fry on medium-low flame until the lentils are a nice, deep golden. Transfer the contents to a plate and let cool
-In the same kadai, without adding any oil, roast the dry coconut slices in a medium-low flame, stirring constantly until they turn a light brown. Transfer to a plate and let cool.
-In a mixie jar/food processor, minimally grind the dal/lentil mixture, it should be half ground. Add the cooled coconut slices and grind completely until a coarse blend is achieved. Now add the salt, jaggery, tamarind paste and water so that a slightly loose but coarse paste is formed. Taste to check if any extra salt, tamarind, chillies or jaggery is necessary
-Pour the mixture into a bowl and fold in the pineapples.
-To make the tempering, in a small kadai/tadka pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds and allow them to splutter. Turn off heat and then add the curry leaves. once they crisp up, add this tempering to the gojju.
-Can be served immediately but even better if you let the pineapple marinate in the gojju for an hour or two, then serve.

Notes:

-I used store bought concentrated tamarind paste which is rather strong. If you’re using dried tamarind and making the tamarind pulp from that, you will need to use more than the amount specified above.
-Guntoor chillies can be quite spicy. If you want a less spicy gojju, just skip them.
-The gojju tastes better the following day(refrigerated) owing to the marinating pineapples, making it a little more sweet. I do not recommend using it beyond a day or 2.

Sweet Autumn- Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

It is that time of the year. The parasols have been shelved away, so are the sunscreens. It is the season of heeled boots, coats and scarves in plaid. The fluttering leaves of autumn scatter about the sidewalks as if after a long, desperate wait. And, our puppy Elaichi,  chases them like he does innocent sparrows in flight. But, it’s not just the romance manifested by the weather Gods. It’s also the food. The warm wafts of cinnamon and ginger, the velvety plush of a pumpkin pie, the heavily studded apple trees and the limitless cups of Pumpkin Spice Lattes.


IMG_2276
Today I want to share with you a sweeter, indulgent version of this autumn favorite: Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes. Just to clarify, pumpkin spice does not contain any pumpkin, nor do these cupcakes. Pumpkin spice blend is a magical coming together of warming spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg. While lattes take precedence in our home, the spice can be used for a variety of dishes and desserts.
IMG_2274_1IMG_2279
These eggless cupcakes & its buttercream are brewed with the richness of all these spices but to compliment it all there is a luscious coffee caramel filling that makes it a complete dessert experience. Just for fun, I made leaves using fondant & gumpaste, then painted them with warm hues to resemble autumn foliage and use as toppers for these seasonal delights. Hope you like and one & embrace it this season and after.

RECIPE FOR EGGFREE PUMPKIN SPICE LATTE CUPCAKES
Makes 12

INGREDIENTS
For the cupcakes-
1.5 cups All Purpose Flour
2 tsp Pumpkin Spice(Recipe in notes*)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
6 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup buttermilk( made by adding 1 tsp of edible vinegar to 1 cup of milk)
2 tbsp instant coffee decoction

For the Coffee Caramel
1 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp Water
1/2 cup whipping cream/heavy cream
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter
2 tbsp instant coffee granules

For the Pumpkin Spice Buttercream
1 cup Unsalted butter, softened at Room temperature
4-5 tsp heavy cream/milk
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp vanilla essence
3.5 to 4 cups icing sugar

METHOD

1) First things first, the Coffee Caramel.
We are essentially making regular caramel and infusing it with coffee.
To begin, place the sugar in a heavy bottomed pan,  pour water on top and cover with a lid. Stove on medium heat.
Meanwhile, place the cold and cubed butter in a heatproof bowl and place a sieve in it. Microwave the heavy cream for a full minute or until bubbling. Carefully take the cream out(it will the hot) and mix it with the instant coffee granules. Keep the butter and this coffee cream close.
Once you hear the sugar mixture boiling, remove the lid. If sugar is crystallizing on the sides,use a pastry brush dipped in water to gently wash it down.
Keep watching the sugar and once in turns amber in once area, stir it around gently but quickly until the entire mixture is amber coloured. Put off the stove.
Very slowly and carefully, add the hot cream into the caramel, it will bubble boisterously, stir with a wooden spoon.
Then, sieve this mixture onto the cold butter and just set it aside to melt for about 5 minutes.
Finally, gently stir and cool completely.
Store in an air tight jar

2) To make the Pumpkin Spice Cupcake
First, we make the Pumpkin Spice by mixing all the ingredients listed above in a little bowl. (The remaining spice mix can be stored and sprinkled on a cup of coffee to make winter nights warm and cosy).
For the cupcakes-
Pre heat your oven to 350 F and line the cupcake pan with cupcake liners
Prepare your coffee decoction by heating water and adding instant coffee. Keep aside.
Next, measure a cup of milk and to that, add 1 teaspoon of vinegar and allow it to curdle and form buttermilk.
In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients: All purpose flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda and sugar.
Add to the dry ingredients- oil, vanilla essence and buttermilk. Mix gently ensuring there are no lumps. Stir in the coffee.
Fill the cupcake liners with your batter(2/3rd of the liner) and bake for 20-35 min OR until a toothpick comes out clean.
Let them cool completely on a wire rack.

3) To make the buttercream
It is important that the butter is softened at room temperature. Place on your counter to let it soften.(I usually leave it overnight)
Once softened, place in a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer along with milk/cream, pumpkin spice and vanilla essence. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter for a about 2 min on medium high speed until fluffy.
Add the icing sugar in parts and keep beating for about 4-5 minutes until the buttercream is soft and creamy.
-If the buttercream is too thick to handle, add heavy cream/milk. If it is too loose, add icing sugar.

To assemble the cupcake
Make a hole in the center of your cupcake using the back end of your piping tip or even just a knife, around 1/2 and inch diameter.
Fill the cupcake with the cooled coffee caramel.
Pipe the buttercream on top using a piping bag attached to a large size round tip

*Note- Pumpkin Spice recipe
4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Mix the above and store in an air-tight jar.

Quand à Paris-1

When in Paris or Quand à Paris in french. Early June, the husband and me flew to the City of Love, hearts heavy with desire to bring to life the titillating words that I had absorbed from a plethora of books , to bask in the romance of a French summer and  attempt to satiate my ravenous longing for sugar in its many avatars. A week’s worth of vacation to make up for a decade’s worth of dreams. I attempt to share and narrate the magic that this darling city sprinkled on us, I hope you love it as much as we did.

Day 1

-Apprehension has captivated me in the flight and no, it is not aviophobia. After devouring and gobbling books about this enchanting city the past few years, the desire isn’t only to navigate and strut down those winding, cobbled streets. It’s more than that. I’m inclined to fit in, ramble in french, splash on that red lipstick, strap on those stilettos and feel at home.

-The taxi ride from the airport to our Air Bnb appartement in Rue Humblot begins uneventfully. However, many zinc rooftop sightings and a handful of traffic violations later, we caught a fleeting glimpse of the Iron Lady, La Tour Eiffel, a glorious manifestation of my dreams, standing tall, proud and bewitchingly beautiful. What follows however, isn’t so pretty. I bawl like a baby, face buried in the husband’s old backpack while he quietly caresses me, fully in the know of these disobedient but happy tears. After I regain composure, I wonder if Parisian cabs are more equipped to handle emotional outbursts, the likes of the above, presuming the likelihood of their frequency!

-The appartement is quaint, tiny, possessing a tinier kitchen. I assume the owner to be an equestrian or an enthusiast . The walls proudly display paintings of horses. The remaining walls are stacked with books and other collectibles. A large window opens to a busy street, the Paris metro chugging frequently. Fingers crossed, I take a quick peek into the minuscule kitchen, smiling as I spot the baking oven.
I attempt to chat with the owners in french, unsure if months of classes will payoff. But, thanks to my teacher and the homework I so religiously abided by, the language flows without interruptions. Admittedly, the words are simple, the sentences are short and blemished grammatically but the components are glued correctly much like the compartments of a train. I’m now overcome by a rush of optimism, enthused to immerse myself in this verbal dance of words, en francais.

-The first stop: The street is enlivened by a Sunday farmer’s market spilling with colours and fresh smells. Chaos, cacophony and conversations reign along with nature’s bounty.Under a tarpaulin sheet, crimson hued cherries, miniature radishes shaded in fuchsia, delicate strawberries, plump peaches, grande et petit tomatoes are organised in mounds and crates. A sight for sore eyes, a plethora of inspiration for a food lover. I request the grocer to bag some fruits; a Galette is brewing in my mind.

-We promenade to the Champs Elysees; the walk is très long. Fortunately, not one minute under the blazing sun is tiring or boring, it is instead, unraveling mysteries and satiating the imaginative mind, one cobbled street at a time. Of course, I bid goodbye to my heels and I rely on my very dependable, flat, ballerina shoes.
The Pont Alexandre Bridge spanning the Siene is studded with ornate nymphs, cherubs and the quintessential Parisian lamps. Woody Allen has magnificently captured it in the final scene of Midnight in Paris, where Owen Wilson and Carla Bruni walk under the rain and I had always wondered if reality channels the same charm. Turns out , it does and more, even if at this moment, the earth is parched beneath the afternoon sun.

-The Champs Elysees is car-free since it is a Sunday mais  siezed by throngs of people. The pavements house quaint patio-style restaurants, all flaunting red and cream woven chairs. We silently navigate through them all because I’m miserably sugar starved and nothing will appease this monster like French dessert. Lo and behold, shimmering in the sunshine is a soft green facade with gold gilded intricacies. C’est Laduree! Macarons, a passionfruit-chocolate bar and a raspberry-litchi-rose cream concoction are devoured with an intense fervor and a silent exchange of smiles between the husband and me. We are after all, at a temple, a temple where peity is reserved for macarons & its kin.

– Jardin des Tuleries near Place de la Concorde is peppered genrously with tall, boxed trees. Under the canopies of these trees are cafes enticing one with the luxuries of shade and respite from the sweltering heat. Glasses clink, plates clatter, wines flow.  A little girl glowers at her mother’s cigarette, clearly unmasking her distaste towards smoking, a couple transforms menu cards into makeshift fans and we take pinched sips of iced drinks After traipsing around the city for 15 kms, we concur that sipping on iced drinks isn’t doing the needful. Fortunately, nestled within the jardin is a pond and at its hem are lawn chairs with low hanging backs. An hour later I realise, a nap did do the needful.

Carousel at Jardin des Tuleries

-We head back to the apartment meaning for it to be a quick stop only to discover that all water for the entire building has been shut off. A phone call with our owner informs us that a leak in the basement has resulted in the above and it being a Sunday, the plumbers aren’t showing up anytime soon.
But, one never sulks in Paris; her magic is too entrancing. One instead, scours for grocery stores and lugs back 10 litres of water in bottles to make do for the next 24 hours simultaneously hoping the universe is transmitting telepathic pleas to the plumbers. One smiles and forgivingly succumbs to the magnetic attraction because,  C’est Paris! Oui?

-We are strolling by the greens in the confines of La Tour Eiffel, when delicious wafts engage our senses, shaking us off from our nonchalant walk. In a little concession stand, a man is making crepes. We stand in line and gaze at the sight like little children; he pours loose batter on a hot griddle and quickly using a spreader transforms it into delicate pancakes, then slathers them with generous spoonfuls of confiture de fraises. Dinner looks good.

-The evening light is gently masked by deeper hues. Dusk is working its way in signalling a time for the stars to shine and more importantly for the golden lights of the Eiffel Tower to shimmer by the Siene. And shimmer she does as if swarmed by a million fireflies. The city is crackling with magic and unfurling the sweetest dreams, trapping us into her cadences and we are not ones to be repelled. We let her sweep us…..We’re in Paris.

Tomato Jam Tart

The husband and me are drawn intensely to late night shopping trips at the grocery. Not that we don’t enjoy a quiet summer night with a movie and pinched sips of of Merlot but, only after a stroll along the hallowed aisles of the supermarket from where we lug back back fresh and vibrant fruits and vegetables. There is something to be said about enjoying a few silents moments with food in the dead of the night, even while procuring them. One such night, we bagged large boxes of cherry tomatoes and I spent the walk home pondering their fate. Delicate & sweet, I realised that these would never withstand my procrastination. I quickly perused through my treasured recipe book, selecting amma’s Tomato Jam to seal their destiny.
42137132800_80b762d37d_o.jpg
This tomato jam was the piéce de rèsistance during many childhood dinners. Tomato being a fruit is sweet on its own but when paired with jaggery , it effortlessly transforms into a comforting dessert-like accompaniment. Syrupy, luscious and delicious. When mundane vegetable curries failed to impress us lot, amma tempted us with this crimson concoction which we scooped up with ghee-smeared rotis.
43930691201_6b1899f5ed_o
The first time I conjured this jam by myself was an experience I won’t forget. Luscious tomatoes bubbled as the jaggery melted into an amber syrup. They splashed & sploshed as I peered & registered every slight nuance. I apologize for the dramatization but this not-so- subtle sound was verily, music to my ears(very Hygge-ligt, might I add). After many phone calls to amma & a string of pictures later, a thick, glossy jam ensued.
The child in me still scoops them up with chapatis. But, the adult-me is forever concocting fancy ways to present this humble jam. Perhaps spoon it over vanilla icecream, or drench thick slices of sourdough toast, the syrupy juices from the tomato dribbling into a mess.
29008091247_0caba8c570_o
This time, I’ve submitted to yet another fabrication of my overthinking mind by pouring this tomato jam into the confines of a buttery tart. 
The Tomato Jam Tart is a beautiful entwining of sweet tomatoes, cardamom and a flaky pate brisee. A warm slice by itself will do the needful but it is advisable to let some cold icecream melt on the side, possibly allow it to dance around with that deep crimson tomato syrup.
43846888161_326c8e660b_o
While the tomatoes invariably steal the show here, there’s another silent ingredient contributing much flavour i.e. Jaggery.  Jaggery is an unrefined sugar, dark golden in colour and makes a large presence in Indian homes. Yes, it provides much sweetness to a variety of desserts and jams but if you’ve been a friend of this blog, you know that Madhwa Cuisine utilizes this ingredient extensively in most spicy and savory dishes as well. And, the tomato jam relies on the magic of jaggery as well for its distinctiveness.
The tomatoes I’ve employed are cherry tomatoes but this jam works perfectly well with any variety of tomatoes. You can even play around with the jaggery and sugar proportions depending on your sweet needs. The jam is not required to be hard set, its syrupy nature is what has enticed me always. I do hope you like this one!


RECIPE FOR TOMATO JAM TART
MAKES AN 8 INCH TART
INGREDIENTS
For the Tomato Jam
3 1/4th cup Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup Granulated Sugar
1 cup Jaggery
1/4 tsp Cardamom Powder

For the Crust/Pate Brisee
1 1/4th cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp Granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
113gms or 1 stick of cold Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup + 1 tsp Ice cold water
Others:
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp of the tomato jam syrup

METHOD
To make the Tomato Jam:(It can be made the previous day)
-In a medium sized thick bottomed pan, add the cherry tomatoes, sugar and jaggery. Mix them together and let them come together over medium heat. Cook for around 35 minutes, stirring every few minutes just to ensure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.
-Once done, the tomatoes will darken in colour , the jam will come to a bubble and gain a thicker consistency.
-Remove from heat and mix the cardamom powder. Let the jam cool completely.

To make the Crust and the Tart
-In a medium bowl, mix the dry ingredients: Flour, salt and sugar
-Chop the cold unsalted butter into cubes and add into the flour mixture. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, break the butter down until the entire mixture resembles a coarse meal. It is alright if there are some larger chunks of butter.
-To this add the ice cold water, little by little and mix only until the the dough comes together and there are no dry bits left. Do not overmix.
-Gather into a ball and wrap with a plastic wrap. Refrigerate for an hour or upto a day.
-Once chilled, let the dough soften at room temperature just until pliable. On a lightly floured surface, roll into a circle of about 12 inches. Turn dough one-eighth of a turn with every roll to make sure that the dough doesn’t stick to the counter.
-Gently place dough on the greased(brushed with a little butter) tart pan and fit it in, making sure that it is well-fitted at the lower edge as well. Trim the excess dough carefully using your fingers.
-With the remaining dough,roll into a an oblong shape and cut into strips(I used a pasta cutter to do this) and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment.
-Place this cookie sheet and the prepared tart pan in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to firm up.
-Remove and add the jam, using a spatula to spread it uniformly around the tart.
-Place the strips in a criss-cross pattern whilst also taking care that they are well attached to the edges of the crust.
-Make a mixture of maple syrup, milk and the tomato jam syrup, brush generously on the pastry strips. Place the tart pan on the parchment lined cookie sheet.
-Bake at 400F for 15 min. Then reduce the temperature to 375F and bake for 40 minutes, or until the pate brisee is golden and the jam is bubbling. During the bake, another coat of the syrup may be applied on the strips.
-Enjoy warm

Layered Eggless Vanilla Cake with Vanilla Buttercream

We are all privy to the seduction of chocolate, its luscious character, those euphoric endorphin highs. Rose on the other hand draws one to drown in floral submission while cardamom and cinnamon allure one with their warming properties.
And Vanilla? Vanilla is like a snuggle in the cold of winter, it is like the softest breeze in the blaze of summer, it is brimming with comfort and all things pretty; perhaps lacking the flamboyance of the aforementioned flavors but attracting with an effortless, elegant simplicity. A quote by Meik Wiking from ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ comes to mind
“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.” Vanilla is like that. It’s an uncomplicated happiness and a delicious one at that!
41926617510_db43037290_o (1)
I remember the days when Oatmeal breakfasts became a common occurrence at home and my grandmother whipped up bowls of it in no time before we scurried off to school. This was circa 1991 when topping oatmeal with a delicate sprinklings of chia seeds, hemp seeds, berries and other fancy foods was a far fetched dream. She however always added a touch of vanilla which was admittedly her way of gilding the lily. It was fragrant, sweet and special. To this day, on those rare mornings when I make oatmeal, you will always find a hint of vanilla swirled into the porridge.
41973908210_a0951ab0fd_o
In my blog, you will find a myriad flavours of cake: Chocolate, pumpkin, chai spice, rose and there’s even a matcha one brewing in the drafts. Although many of these recipes borrow the magic of vanilla it remains to be an enhancer and not to be one of the dominant flavors. When a fellow food blogger, Praneetha of Culinary Peace kindly requested me for a vanilla cake recipe, it dawned on me that there isn’t one here. Now, we can’t have that, can we?
43681349341_9d9eb5164f_o42778363185_4d2e6f2f35_oSo here it is,  an eggfree and fluffy Vanilla Cake, slathered with a Vanilla Buttercream and adorned with fresh fruits. I chanced upon the sweetest Champagne Grapes and White Currants at Kensington Market and couldn’t resist employing them here.  But, since it is summer, berries and mangoes would be a great option as well. There are directions for assembly included as well:) Hope you like this one.

RECIPE FOR VANILLA CAKE (EGGFREE)
This recipe makes a 2 layered 6″ Round Cake

INGREDIENTS
For the cake
1.5 cups Self raising flour + 1 tbsp + extra to flour the pan
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4th tsp salt
1 cup milk
1 tbsp + 1tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 tbsp oil
4 tbsp hot water
For the Simple Syrup
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp vanilla extract
For the Vanilla Buttercream(hand mixer or stand mixer is necessary for this)
1 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
5 tsp whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/4th cups Icing Sugar
Others
Fresh fruits for topping(optional)

METHOD
For the cake
-Preheat the oven to 350F. 
-Grease the cake pans(I used Springform pans) entirely with butter, then line the base with a 6″ round parchment paper. Dust the sides of the pan with flour.
-In a small cup, mix milk with 1tsp of white vinegar. Keep aside
-In a medium sized bowl, whisk the dry ingredients: Self Raising Flour, Salt, Sugar and Baking Soda. Keep aside
-In another bowl mix together Oil, Vanilla Extract and 1 tbsp of White Vinegar. To this add the buttermilk(the milk with the vinegar) and mix.
-In portions, add the wet ingredient mix to the dry and gently mix the batter making sure that there are no lumps.
-Add the hot water and fold it in. 
-Divide the batter equally between the two pans and bake for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
-Once done, after 3 minutes, run a knife through the sides of the pan and remove the cake. Place on a parchment lined rack/board to cool completely.
-Next make the simple syrup by placing all the ingredients in a small pot. Place on medium heat and let the sugar dissolve. Remove from heat as soon as you spot a light simmer. Allow to cool.
-To make the buttercream, place the softened butter and vanilla extract in the bowl of your stand mixer OR a large bowl if you’re using a hand mixer. On medium speed, whisk until the butter is creamy. Then add the milk, whisk again. Add the sugar in 3 portions. Whisk until it is incorporated into the butter each time. Beat for 3-4 minutes once the last portion of sugar is added. It is now ready to use.

TO ASSEMBLE
-First,using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides of the cake with the simple syrup.
NOTE: Use the syrup sparingly, it is only used to keep the cake moist. The excess can be stored and used to sweeten teas etc.)
-Then place the cake board on your cake stand (or turntable).
-Place the first layer of the cake on the cake board with a little bit of buttercream so that the cake stays in place while you work on it.
-Place a good amount of buttercream on top and spread evenly. Now, place the second layer of cake on it. The flat side of the cake should face top.
-Next add buttercream in excess on the top of the second layer and using an offset spatula spread it all around the top of the cake and push it down to the sides. Using the same spatula, gently slather the sides of the cake with the buttercream(adding more if necessary) until the cake is completely masked.(if the buttercream is resisting the spreading, add a few drops of milk to thin it down)/
-Top with fresh fruits