Vanilla Fig Cake is an incredibly delicious cake with loads of fig bits in every bite. The crust comes out to be a beautiful brown and the crumb is super soft. This is a wonderful tea cake. It is delicious and healthy. 

Early summer in the hills is enthralling. The traces of Spring is still perceptible in the colours of wildflowers and in the luxuriance of ferns. Rhododendron is blooming in all glory in the oak forest.


The bunches of velvety red flowers in the midst of the grand Oaks break the green monotony. 


A hoard of wildflowers covers the ground in the orchard. These look like stars in the firmament. 


Bees and butterflies are busy foraging.  Small bees also called wild bees that throng the flowers are important for pollination. More bees mean more fruits in the orchard. Everything in the universe is interlinked.

The trail to our home that passes through the Oak thicket is a carpet of dry leaves and rhododendron petals. The scent of wildflowers and the incessant bird songs make it a pleasurable walk.  


Back home, we sliced the Vanilla Fig cake baked the previous day. With a cup of hot ginger tea, it seemed to be the best antidote to drive away the exhaustion.


This is an incredibly delicious cake with loads of fig bits in every bite. The crust comes out to be a beautiful brown and crumb is super soft. This is a wonderful tea cake. It is delicious and healthy.

Eggless Wholegrain Vanilla Fig Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¾ cup unrefined cane sugar
  • 1 tablespoon flax meal
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup oil
  • ¾ cup warm milk
  • 1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 6 medium size dry figs

Instructions

  1. In a deep bowl, mix the flax meal with 3 tablespoons water. Whisk and let rest for 10 minutes. It will become thick and gel-like.
  2. With the help of kitchen scissors, cut figs into very small pieces. Make sure to cut fig into small pieces. Large pieces will sink in the bottom of the batter. Toss the chopped pieces in two teaspoons of flour, Keep aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Grease and line one 7 inch round cake pan. (I recommend a round cake pan. I baked mine in a loaf pan and it took a very long time to bake)
  4. Whisk together first four ingredients in a large bowl. Keep aside.
  5. In another deep bowl, take oil, warm milk, and vanilla essence. Mix well. Add Flax gel and mix till you get a uniform mixture.
  6. Add dry ingredients and mix well to get a smooth batter. Fold in chopped figs. Reserve some to sprinkle on top.
  7. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Level the top. Sprinkle some chopped figs on top.
  8. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove from the pan. Cool in the rack. Slice the next day.



Orange Delight is an incredibly soft and moist Orange Cake. The juice and zest of the fresh oranges makes is a citrusy heaven




Early morning silence is shredded by the cacophony of White Crested Laughing Thrush that comes in groups.


 A group of four perched on a tree and their shrill calls resonated in the valley. 


The countryside is bathed in the brilliant summer hues. The barren patches are grassy and green. The trees sway in the warming breeze, donning the verdant hues. Far far away, we spotted a pair of Collared Doves on the higher branches of the silk cotton tree. 



Summer is arriving in our land drifting in on the Spring wind.

Last weekend, we baked Orange Delight. It is an Orange cake with potatoes. The cake is light and fluffy and a delicious change from the conventional recipe. The inspiration for this cake comes from a book that was discovered in the unreachable upper shelves of the kitchen while cleaning. With the juice and zest of the local oranges, the cake turned out to be a real Orange Delight.



There is something charming about the old recipes. This recipe comes from the book “The Popular Potato Best Recipes“ by Valwyn Mc Monigal. The brittle, fragile and yellowing pages of the book have a wonderful collection of recipes with potatoes. A lot of them will be a pleasure to try out. We chose to bake the Orange cake first.


Orange Delight / Orange Cake


Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup butter
  • ½ cup castor sugar
  • ½ cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 free range eggs  lightly beaten
  • 1 medium potato peeled and grated
  • Grated rind of one orange

Icing

  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 tsp butter
  • Orange juice

Instructions


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
  2.  Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Cream butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  4. Add orange rind and orange juice.
  5. Add eggs. Mix well.
  6. Add flour mix. Stir to get a uniform creamy mixture.
  7. Squeeze potato dry and add to mixture. Stir well to combine.
  8. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.
  9. Bake for 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick. It should come out clean.
  10. Cool the cake in the rack.
  11. To make the icing, put the icing sugar into a small pan and add sufficient orange juice to make a firm mixture. Beat in butter. Heat on low very briefly and spread over the cake.



 



Caramelized Onion and Cheese Bread is gently crisp on the outside and very soft, cheesy and fluffy inside. The bread is so good, it needs no accompaniment to be enjoyed. It is a treat in itself




It is already the advent of spring. Silk cotton (Semal) trees scattered in the valley have grown juicy leaves. The branches have been nursing swollen buds all over. Some buds have already split revealing the sleeping fiery red flowers within. Some trees are already in bloom. Silk cotton flowers are huge and leathery. 


A tree in bloom is a haven for drongoes, black bulbuls and a host of other birds that throng it in multitudes.



Yesterday we saw a kite perched for a very long time on the branch of a Semal tree on the bank of the river. 


Green beaters are back. Early morning, they can be seen flying around the branches of the tree.


They are often spotted in the semal tree preying  on the insects that are attracted by the big flowers.


Warm days are a boon for the bread bakers. And we planned to bake a loaf of Caramelized Onion and Cheese Bread for dinner. The bread is slightly crisp on the outside and soft and fluffy inside.
Fluffy, cheesy and oniony bread is a treat in itself. It is addictive. 


Caramelized onions make the loaf sweet and flavourful. Cheese gives softness and to die for cheesiness. It is a melt in the mouth loaf that pairs really well with a soup for light simple dinner.


Caramelized Onion and Cheese Bread

Ingredients

  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 tablespoons butter/oil
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon instant dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ¾ cup of warm water
  • 1/3 cup warm milk

 Instructions

  1. Chop the onion finely.
  2. Heat a wok. Add butter/oil and add onions. On medium to low flame, fry the onions until transparent. Fry further stirring continuously until golden. Leave to cool.
  3. In another large bowl, take flour, salt, cheese, and yeast. Add caramelized onions. Mix well.
  4. Add mix ½ cup water and milk. Add sugar. This mixture should be warm.
  5. Add to dry ingredients and knead for 7-8 minutes. Add more warm water while kneading.
  6. Knead till you get a very smooth and slightly tacky dough.
  7. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl. Turn around once so that the dough is oiled all over. Cover and keep in a warm place to rise until double.
  8. In the meantime, grease one 8 ½ x 4 ½ inch loaf pan. Sprinkle some cornmeal or coarse flour to coat the sides and bottom (this ensures that the bread does not stick to the sides and bottom)
  9. Punch the risen dough. Divide into three equal size pieces.
  10. Roll each piece into a 13 cm long rope.
  11. Keep the three ropes together. Bring the ends together, pinch and tuck in. Now braid the ropes tightly. Pinch the ends and tuck in. Place the braid in the prepared pan. Cover and keep in a warm place for one hour or till it doubles in size.
  12. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for 25 -30 minutes or till the loaf turns golden from the top and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Tent with a foil if the top turns brown early. Remove from oven. Remove from pan after 5 to 7 minutes.
  13. Brush some butter on the warm loaf.
  14. Cool in the rack.  

  


Linking to #BreadBakers
BreadBakers

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page
This month's theme is from Palatable Pastime, with extra help from Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to 
[email protected].

This month, the Bread Bakers are baking breads with cheese mixed into the dough. Check out the rest of the breads made with cheese! 




 Healthy, wholesome and delicious Wholegrain Oat and Berry Cookies make a great snacking option for in- between hunger pangs. 

  

This season has been of the unanticipated and out of occasion rains. Rains have ensured that the cold stays on for some more time. We woke up to a sky crammed with moisture-laden gray clouds. The late morning felt like early morning. Warm winds blew, spreading the clouds evenly in the sky that looked scary with dark clouds looming low over the hills. The rain came down in big drops that soon turned into a heavy downpour. Small puddles formed in the fields that merged into each other forming a larger water body, muddy and murky.


Later in the evening, as the rain stopped, there were bulbuls huddled together in the branches of bougainvillea. 


A Brahminy Starling pecked some grains of millet from our veranda and joined the bulbuls.  

Kids have been working hard for their annual exams. In between their study hours, they took a small break and joined us in baking Wholegrain Oats Cookies.


The cookies are wholesome and filling. It makes a healthy snack option. We used clarified butter (ghee from cow’s milk) and mixed dry berries. Dried figs, cranberries and any candied dehydrated fruit would also make a good option. Keep sweetness on the lower side to get the right flavour and taste of the ingredients.


Wholegrain Oats and Berry Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup wholewheat flour
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1/2  teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 pinch rock salt
  • 3/4  cup unrefined cane Sugar (khandsari or boora Sugar)
  • 1/2 cup Ghee (preferably from cow’s milk)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4-6 tablespoons warm milk
  • 1/4 cup mixed candied berries (cranberries, raspberries) or black currants

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together first four ingredients.
  2. In another deep bowl, beat ghee with sugar.
  3. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Now add dry flour mix. Mix well. Add berries.
  5. Now add 2 tablespoons of warm milk. Mix. If the mixture feels dry, add 2 tablespoons of milk again. Mix with hands. The mixture should come together like a dough. It should be a little dry, but not overly wet and sticky.
  6. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line one baking tray with parchment paper.
  7. Take walnut size balls of dough and flatten them. If you want cookies with clean edges, use a cookie cutter or a lid of the bottle. Press firmly on the flattened dough.
  8. Arrange cookies on the baking tray about 1 ½ inch apart. The cookies will expand while baking.
  9. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes. The cookies will bloat and then flatten while baking. The cookies should brown uniformly.
  10. Turn off the heat and transfer the cookies to the rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

My Tip 
The dough should be soft and pliable. It should not be sticky. Add more milk only if the dough feels dry. Use berries or dry fruit of your choice.


Garlic Cheese and Herbs Pull-Apart Bread is soft, buttery and amazingly delicious.  With cheese, butter,  and herbs between the folds, it is quite a treat with a bowl of hot soup




The fag end of the winter is the advent of early spring. The weather has still not settled yet. Mornings begin on a bright note and as the day progresses, wisps of clouds float across the firmament and often collect around the mellow Sun and thus another day cold and cloudy.


Nature has begun to wear shades of yellow. In our culture, yellow symbolizes the arrival of spring. A bunch of wild Dahlias brightens up a corner of the field.


Some scented yellow flowers fill up the vine that was leafless some weeks ago.


New buds in the hibiscus attract the butterflies and there are many hovering around, inspecting the buds that have not yet opened their eyes.


Evenings are still cold a bowl of hot soup is an elixir. We baked a loaf of Garlic Cheese and Herbs Pull-Apart Bread to go with a soup that had all the vegetables we could find at home. The cheesy and herby bread with soup was quite a treat.


Pull-apart loaves of bread are always interesting to bake. The joy lies in shaping the bread.


In this loaf, we cut out round pieces of dough. Spread the filling and cheese. The rounds were folded and stacked in the pan. This process is not messy and the loaf looks neat and uniform.
This gives a rounder and neater pull-apart loaf. Let the loaf rise until puffy.


You may play around with the filling. We made the filling with butter, garlic, herbs, and cheese.



Garlic Cheese and Herbs Pull-Apart Bread

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup warm milk (plus more if needed)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Filling
  • 3 tablespoons soft butter
  • 1 tablespoon dry herbs or pizza seasoning
  • ½ teaspoons powdered dehydrated garlic
  • Grated cheddar cheese (as required)

Instructions

  1. Whisk together first three ingredients in a large bowl. Keep aside.
  2. Take the last three ingredients in another bowl. Mix well.
  3. The sugar should dissolve completely and the butter should melt. If the milk is not warm enough, heat till done.
  4. Use milk mixture to knead the dough. Stir with a ladle until you get a shaggy dough.
  5. Transfer to a counter and knead till you get a very smooth, elastic and shiny dough. It should be a little tacky.
  6. Transfer to an oiled bowl. Turn around once so that the dough is evenly coated with oil. Cover and keep in a warm place until double in size.
  7. While the dough is in the last stage of rising, prepare the filling. Mix all the ingredients except cheese in a bowl. Keep aside.
  8. Grease one 8 ½ inches x 4 ½ inches loaf pan.
  9. Punch the risen dough. Divide into two equal size pieces.
  10. Roll out one piece on a lightly floured counter. Roll out evenly into a circle of about ½ inch thickness.
  11. Use a lid, bowl or a large cookie cutter to cut circles out of the dough.
  12. Spread the filling in the half of each circle.  Add cheese. Fold the circle in half and place them, round side up, in the loaf pan. 
  13. Repeat with the remaining dough until the pan is full.
  14. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place until puffy.
  15. Bake in a preheated oven at 180 degrees C for about 20 -22 minutes. The top should turn golden and the bottom of the pan should sound hollow when tapped.
  16. Tent with a foil if the top is browning too fast.
  17. Remove from the oven after 10 minutes.
  18. Enjoy warm bread with hot soup.
Linking to #BreadBakers

This month, we are catching up on old ‘Bread Bakers’ themes we missed out on. Our host of the month is Pavani at Cook's Hideout. Check out what the Bread Bakers have baked  this month

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to [email protected]
BreadBakers





Classic Carrot Cake is a low-fat snack cake. The crumb is light and airy and toasted walnuts add a lovely crunch in every bite. Best enjoyed with a hot cup of tea or coffee.





Nature is generous, caring and ever balancing. Mankind has been greedy and ruthless in exploiting the resources, changing the weather patterns and then ranting on how it has impacted the lives and livelihood. It seemed that our hills missed the snowfall this season and everyone mulled on how the low yield of crops and fruits would bring loss to the villagers. Nature is kind and benevolent.  It nurtures everyone and does it all selflessly.
It has been snowing and raining in our world for the last two weeks. The season of rain and snow has brought happiness to our village. The fruit trees hold snow in their bare branches and revel at the onset of great fruition.


 A Blue Whistling Thrush sings endlessly on a bare Pear Tree.

Apricot trees are bare too. New leaves would be born on their bare branches soon.


 Meanwhile, a Green Backed Tit flits from branch to branch.


Our home is flooded with the warm aroma of cinnamon as a Carrot Cake bakes in the oven. It is being baked for our guests who are coming for tea in the evening.


 A simple yet classic recipe that is easy to bake and requires simple ingredients that are always there in the pantry. The crunch of walnuts and light crumb makes it a great teatime cake.


Classic Carrot Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon soda (scant)
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon rock salt (less if using sea salt)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (powdered)
  • 2 free range eggs
  • ¾ cup unrefined sugar
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup finely grated carrots
  • ½ cup walnuts

Instructions

  1. Toast the walnuts in oven for 8-10 minutes at 150 degrees C or until golden and fragrant.
  2.  Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease and line one 8 inch round cake pan.
  3. In a large bowl, take first five ingredients. Whisk.
  4. In a large deep bowl. Beat eggs for 4-5 minutes or until frothy.
  5. Add sugar. Beat till the mixture becomes pale and frothy.
  6. Add oil and vanilla extract and beat well.
  7. Add flour mix and stir to get a smooth batter.
  8. Fold in grated carrots and toasted walnuts.
  9. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  10. Remove cake from the oven and place on the wire rack.
  11. After ten minutes, invert on the rack. Remove the parchment paper and let cool completely.
  12. Slice the next day.



Note - If the carrots are very juicy, squeeze out some juice before folding into the batter.


Tingling air, heavenly petrichor, and freshness permeates the air as it rained heavily early morning. The rain is very welcome and was much awaited. It will replenish the springs, it will nourish the winter crops, benefit the fruit trees and it will improve the weather.
The temperature has dropped visibly. People in the streets are bundled up in layers and layers of clothes. Birds are huddled up together in branches. Monkeys are also cuddled up in groups. We spotted a pair of Red Vent Bulbuls in bougainvillea bush.



On cold days, afternoon tea is eagerly awaited for. While the teapot hissed and steamed, we dressed up our finger millet cake with thick ganache. A handful of crushed pistachios were showered on the ganache as it dripped from the sides. The cake we delicious.


I baked this cake on lines of Cake Pan Cake or, the Wartime Cake. It is vegan and guilt-free.
We bake this cake quite often. When we bake it as a snack cake, we bake with whole grain flour. when baked as a dessert cake, its 50% all-purose flour and 50% wholegrain flour.


It is definitely an easy dessert cake on the go and is really delish.


Chocolate Finger millet Cake | Chocolate Ragi Cake (Vegan)

Ingredients


  • 2 cups wholewheat flour 
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ¼ cup finger millet flour
  • 1 ¼ cup unrefined cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda (scant)
  • ½ teaspoon rock salt (less if using sea salt)
  • 1 cup warm water
  • ½ cup oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Generously grease one 8 cup bundt pan with oil. Dust with flour. Tap to remove excess flour.
  3. You may bake this cake in two 8 inch round cake pans or one large 9 inches round cake pan.
  4. Take all the dry ingredients (first six ingredients) in a large bowl.
  5. Whisk together nicely.
  6. Make a well in the center.
  7. Add water, oil, vinegar, and vanilla extract.
  8. Mix well to get a lump free batter.
  9. Pour into the prepared bundt pan.
  10.  Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  11. Remove the pan from the oven after 10 minutes. Let the cake cool completely on a wire rack.
  12. Enjoy plain or with ganache. (Find the recipe for ganache here)
I suggest that once the cake cools completely, wrap in a cling film and keep it overnight. Slice next day. It becomes soft, moist and the flavours also come out fully.


Note – If you are using a bundt pan, ensure that it is a non- stick material. Grease it well with oil and dust with flour in all the corners and crevices. After you remove the cake from the oven, wrap a towel around the base and sides of the pan for 15 minutes. Use the back of a spoon to push the cake from the sides. If you see that it has left the pan, invert on the rack. 
Peanut and Jaggery Laddu are vegan, gluten-free and with no added fat. The laddus are melt in the mouth, delicious and addictive and make a healthy snack.  



Peanuts or groundnuts are the staple snacks in winters in north India. Nuts with shells are roasted in the sand in a large iron wok on clay angithi (oven) and sold in the carts. The vendors also sell the sweets like chikki, made with peanuts and jaggery.

Our ancient food theories have a profound understanding of the food and diet according to the seasons. It came with the understanding the fact that changes in diet also need to be altered by the changing seasons. Most of the festivals in India celebrate and welcome new seasons and have specific food assigned to each of them. This is really apt and very interesting.

In summers, the weather is extremely hot.  The body needs simple and easily digestible foods and foods that are coolants. Similarly, during winters the weather is cold and dry and body requires foods that are nutrient rich and body warming and rich in natural oils.


In North India, we get fresh produce of groundnuts. Winter is also the time when fresh Jaggery is made in our villages in the foothills. Our traditional sweets during winters are made with groundnuts and jaggery. On Makar Sankranti and Lohri, most of the sweets are prepared using Peanuts and Jaggery.


Peanuts are good for the heart. Peanuts are rich in proteins and folic acid. Jaggery is rich in calcium and iron. It removes toxic matter from the body and keeps the body warm. It is a great immunity booster and blood purifier. It is a natural cleanser that efficiently cleans the respiratory tract, lungs, and food pipe and stomach.
Peanuts and jaggery make a healthy combination. Peanut Jaggery laddu are made every winter in our home several times. The laddus come together quickly and easily and make a healthy snack. The melt in the mouth laddu have no added fat and are delicious and addictive.


Peanut Jaggery Laddu |Peanut Jaggery Energy Balls

Ingredients

  • 2 cups peanuts
  • 1 cup crumbled jaggery
  • 4-5 green cardamoms (powdered)

Instructions

  1. Roast peanuts on low flame until they crackle and turn golden.
  2. Or, take peanuts in a baking tray. Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Set timer to 15 minutes. Toast the peanuts until they begin to crackle and turn golden. 
  3. Remove the skin from the roasted nuts.
  4. Grind the warm nuts until you get a fine powder and the nuts begin to turn buttery. Buttery nuts help in binding the laddus well.
  5. Add crumbled jaggery to the mixture. Pulse twice or thrice in the grinder.
  6. Transfer the mixture to a plate. Add powdered cardamom. Mix well.
  7. Take a handful of mixture and shape into ball pressing the mixture tightly with your fingers. Use only one hand to shape laddu.
  8. In case if the mixture seems a bit dry, add more jaggery.
  9. Store in an airtight container.


Note: Make these laddus with the jaggery that comes in blocks. This jaggery is soft and turns mushy and binds the laddu well. Store bought jaggery powder or small chunks will not bind the laddus well.
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