One morning, it was not yet light; thin fog prevailed and, a cacophony of birds in the kitchen garden shattered the early morning tranquility. Some squirrels too  joined the bandwagon and the commotion reached a crescendo, prompting us to ferret out the reason. Birds were hovering atop wood apple tree. Our Dog too  was letting out occasional barks. Amidst all the din and clamour, we spotted a cat on the higher branches of the tree. Presumably, the dog chased the cat, and, the harried creature took refuge in the tree, much to the dislike of the birds who always regard cats with suspicion. The dog was chained till the cat came down and the drama ended happily with peace returning.
A custard apple tree in our garden is laden with fruit. First prerogative is of the birds who love pecking the ripe fruits. We pluck later. This year the bumper harvest was shared between the birds, our neighbours and us. Some fruits were enjoyed plain, while two were used in a cake.

It was an experiment that was undertaken reluctantly but was a success.

 The cake has a unique flavour and sweetness of custard apples.

 Crumb is super soft and moist, and a little grittiness gives it a great texture. Must try cake for those who love to experiment and want to bake something different and new

Custard Apple Cake
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch baking soda
1 pinch salt
2 free range eggs
1 stick (1/2 cup butter)
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ cup warm milk
2 large ripe custard apples
Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
Remove pulp from the custard apples. Mash pulp with hands. Remove seeds.
Whisk together first four ingredients.
Beat egg whites till frothy.
Beat butter and sugar till light and creamy. Add yolks.
Add custard apple pulp and vanilla essence. Add egg white. Stir well to get a uniform mixture.
Now add flour mix in three shifts. Every time you add flour, add warm milk. Stir till you get a lump free batter.
Pour batter in the prepared tin. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes till the top turns brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the pan. Cool in the rack. Slice next day.

It’s a bright weekend. Thankfully, weatherman’s prediction of rains does not come out true. A pleasing sound of splash gets our attention. The sound grows and becomes really clear and loud. We know the source. Almost half a dozen Himalayan Bulbuls are around our bird bath. 

Some bathing, some patiently waiting for their turn, some constantly alighting and then vanishing in the branches and some chirruping in the Mango tree, perhaps waiting for their turn or prodding their brethren to hurry up.

It is a pleasure to watch them. 

Wet, wooly, preening and tweeting in high notes and shaking water off them, thus creating a spray of mist.

It has been 24 hours since we made Candied Orange peels. Prepared peels are resting on the rack. We check for doneness. The peels are hard and ready to be rolled in sugar. My daughter does the needful. 
A handful of peels are chopped into small pieces. These will go into the chocolate that is planned to be made. By evening, Orange Peel dark Chocolate in made. It comes out delicious.
Orange and Chocolate make a great pair. Delicious homemade chocolates are ready for the chocoholics in us!

Orange Peel Dark Chocolates
1 cup milk powder
6 tablespoons cocoa powder
¼ cup (½ stick) butter 
2/3 cup sugar
½ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons candied orange peels

Mix milk powder and cocoa powder and pass it through a fine mesh strainer.

Chop candied orange peels.

Make syrup with sugar and water and boil till it reaches one string consistency (this consistency is 
very important else, the chocolate will not set). Add butter to the syrup at this stage. Turn off the heat.

 Add milk powder and cocoa mix in parts, mixing well after each addition. Add peels.

Mix till a homogenous mixture forms. Mix well. Empty the mixture into the prepared pan. Spread it to uniform thickness. Level the top with a greased spatula. Leave to cool.

Turn the pan on a tray, tap the bottom gently. Slice the chocolate, store in an airtight container.

We woke up to a mild drizzle. The rain could be heard falling on the terrace and on the leaves. A cold wind shook the tree tops.   We snuggled deeper into our quilts - a liberty we could afford, on a Sunday. Soon, rays of the Sun sneaked through the scattered clouds and brightened up the morning.

Routine chores started. A handful of grains were placed lovingly on the food table and bird bath filled up. First guest arrived. A Dove perched itself on the table and had ate to its heart’s content. 

Two squirrels came after and nibbled on the grains.

The Sun gained strength as the day progressed. It being a warm day, we decided to make bread rolls for dinner along with Red pumpkin soup.

The dough was kneaded, rested, punched and shaped into rolls. 

Soon we had yeasty aroma wafting all over.

Earlier, a batch was baked with whole wheat flour which turned out to be equally delicious, albeit a little dense. It was nutty, earthy and filling.

Super Soft Dinner Rolls and Whole Wheat Dinner Rolls
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
½ cup warm milk
¼ cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter

Whisk together flour, yeast, and salt.
Combine water, milk, sugar  and butter.
Add to flour mix and knead for 6 to 8 minutes till you get a soft elastic dough.
Cover and keep for 15 minutes. Knead again for 5 minutes. The dough should be supple and smooth.
Grease one 8 inch round cake pan. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
Divide dough into 12 equal size balls. Arrange in the pan. Cover and leave it to rise for 1 hour or until double.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or till the rolls turn golden.
Remove from the pan and brush the tops with butter.

To prepare rolls with whole wheat flour, replace all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour.
You might require more water to get a soft dough
Knead and keep dough to rise for 1 hour or until double.
Punch and knead again for 5 minutes.
Shape into rolls, rest of the steps are  same as above.

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