Festivals evoke the memories of delicious days of childhood. We have vivid memories of Diwali being celebrated with elan.  Weeks before the frenzied cleaning would leave us all exhausted. A cup of tea with some goodies would seem such an elixir. Every cupboard, every drawer, every room, and every corner would be cleaned and arranged. A lot of things hoarded and not used would go out making home lighter and better, fresh and light.
Our dad would insist on making sweets at home and trying out new recipes. We would all come out with our recipes decided way in advance. There was so much happiness, laughter, excitement, merriment, and revelry. Such beautiful memories are etched in the memory.

Following the tradition of making sweets at home, we made Paan Laddu this Diwali. Paan or betel leaf has immense health benefits. It is loaded with antioxidants. It is carminative, good for digestion and a great cure for stomach related problems. Paan also improves metabolism. It is a mouth freshener and is good for oral health. Paan laddu is not very rich or loaded with calories and is ideal to make on festivities. Recipe adapted from here
It tastes like meetha paan. We loved Paan Laddu. 

Paan Laddu


  • 6 large paan leaves (betel leaves)
  • ¾ cup condensed milk
  • 1 ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon clarified butter (ghee)
  • ½ cup desiccated coconut (to roll the laddu) 
  • Gulkand (rose preserve)


  1. Wash the betel leaves.
  2. Chop them into small pieces.
  3. Put them in a grinder/food processor. Add half cup condensed milk. Blend to get a fine paste.
  4. In a steel wok, take ghee. Add desiccated coconut. Stir till coconut becomes slightly roasted but does not change colour.
  5. Turn off the heat. Add betel leaf paste. Mix well. Add remaining condensed milk.
  6. Cook on low heat till the mixture thickens and begins to leave the sides of the wok. Turn off the heat.
  7. When the mixture is warm enough to handle, take a small portion, flatten on your palm, add ½ teaspoon gulkand and bring the edges together and shape into a laddu. 
  8. Roll the laddu in desiccated coconut.
  9. Prepare laddus with all the mixture in the same way and store in an airtight container.

Autumn is the season of beauty, of flowers, fragrances, colours and aroma.  Autumn is also the season of festivities, flavours, food, fun, frolic, and happiness. 

The balmy Sun, cold mornings, short days all add to the mirth. 

This weekend, we indulged in some festive baking and baked the much-awaited brookie.

When you bake a layer of chocolate chip cookie dough with a layer of brownie batter, you get brookie. It is a cookie-brownie match made in heaven. You can enjoy a fudgy brownie and a chewy chocolate chip cookie with each bite of the scrumptious brookie.

 We loved preparing two batters separately and then layering them. The batter was delicious and we licked a good amount of it.

We love them plain, we enjoyed the brookie with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and children were delighted to have with a dollop of vanilla ice cream.

Chocolate Chip Brookie


Brownie Batter

  • ¼  cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼  teaspoon salt
  • 1/3  cup cocoa powder
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • ½  cup caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ½  teaspoon Vanilla extract

Cookie dough 

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8  teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1 pinch salt
  • ¼  cup butter (softened)
  • ½  cup caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup dark chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease the sides of one 9 inch round pan. Dust with flour. Line the bottom with parchment paper

For Brownie Batter-

  1. Whisk together flour and salt. Keep aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix butter and sugar. Add cocoa powder. Stir well so that there are no lumps.
  3. Beat in the egg. Mix. Add vanilla extract and stir well.
  4. Add flour mix in two shifts. Stir well. You will get a very shiny and silky brownie batter.

For Cookie Dough-

  1. Whisk together first three ingredients in a large bowl. Keep aside.
  2. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy.
  3. Beat in egg. Mix. Add vanilla extract.
  4. Add flour mix in two shifts and mix till well incorporated. Fold in half of the chocolate chips into the batter. Cookie dough will be thick.

Assembling -

  1. Pour the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Level the top with the back of a spoon.
  2. Now add cookie dough with a ladle. Level the top. Sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips on top.
  3. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the cookie dough turns golden and pulls away from the sides.
  4. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Slice and serve with chocolate sauce or ice cream.

My Tip: Do not overbake brookie. It will become dry. We want a moist and fudgy brookie.

Baking a bread has always been a pleasurable experience for me. A very empowering one in fact. To me, dough holds immense possibilities and options. How beautifully it transforms into a loaf or a roll really fascinates me. If you have hungry little ones at home, a loaf of bread really comes as a savior. Having baked a number of loaves, rolls, boules, pull apart bread, braided bread, focaccia I feel the journey has just begun.
Sourdough baking has always fascinated and intrigued me.  How I admire the beautiful sourdough bread home bakers bake. Having decided to take a plunge, I made my own starter following the guidelines of kingarthurflour.com 
The starter was ready and the first sourdough bread was a Golden Focaccia also adapted from kingarthurflour with some changes. I added a lot of garlic and mixed herbs.

While the dough was rising, we heard the call of our pet squirrel in the mango tree. It was waiting for raisins we give her every day. It comes down and takes from our hands and then scurries to the top branch where it nibbles happily. 

This is a sight we love till it comes down again for many more rounds. 

On the higher branches, we noticed a beautiful butterfly. These are the pleasures of living in the countryside.

Our sourdough Focaccia turned out a beautiful golden and delicious. We loved it. Garlic did the magic. We loved our dinner with the crisp golden focaccia and soup.  

Golden Garlic Sourdough Focaccia



  • 1 cup fed sourdough starter  Or, 
  • ½ cup cool water
  • 1 pinch instant dry yeast
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour


  • 1 cup starter
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ¼ cup instant dry yeast
  • ½ cup warm water (or more if needed)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 2 +2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons mixed dry herbs
  • Coarse sea salt
  • Black pepper (coarsely ground)


  1. To make the starter, mix water, yeast, and flour and stir till you get a smooth lump-free paste. Cover and let rest on the kitchen counter for 14 hours. It will become bubbly.
  2. To prepare the dough, take all the ingredients except oil for dough along with the fed starter or the overnight starter. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix well and knead for 5 – 8 minutes till you get a very smooth, soft elastic and shiny dough. Add more water if the dough feels hard or dry.
  3. Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Turn around once so that the dough is evenly coated with oil. Cover and keep for 1 hour or until double.
  4. Grease one large baking tray (my tray measures 14.5 inches x 10.5 inches) with vegetable oil. Spread 2 tablespoon olive oil atop vegetable oil. Olive oil gives the bottom of focaccia a great crunch and colour. Transfer the dough to the baking tray. Now shape dough into a rectangle by pulling and stretching and patting. Leave some space around the perimeter. Make a thinner focaccia if you love it crisp and make thicker focaccia if you love it soft.
  5. Cover the tray and allow the dough to rise for 30 minutes. Use your fingers to make dimples on focaccia by pressing down firmly.
  6. Cover the tray and leave to rise for 1 hour or until very puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to oven to 200 degrees C.
  7. Spray the focaccia heavily with warm water. Drizzle olive oil, sprinkle mixed herbs and salt.
  8. Place the tray on the middle rack and bake for 20-25 minutes or until it turns a beautiful golden. Remove from the tray and cool on the rack.
  9. Enjoy warm focaccia with soup or stew.
Linking to Bread Bakers-

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home pageWe 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].

Our host this month is Karen who bakes awesome bread and blogs at karenskitchenstories. Her blog is a treasure house of amazing breads. Karen chose to bake sourdough bread this month.

Here is the list of the sourdough bread baked by our friends-

·  Buttery Sourdough Biscuits from Cook's Hideout

·  Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Bread from Mayuri's Jikoni

·  Hokkaido Bread with Tangzhong from Sonlicious

·  Overnight 500g Sourdough Bread from Hostess at Heart

·  Pai Bao with Tangzhong from All That's Left are the Crumbs

·  Pav Buns Using the Tangzhong Method from Spill the Spices

·  Peanut Bread from Passion Kneaded

·  Poolish Dough Pizza Crust from Palatable Passtime

·  Sourdough Bread Bowls from The Crumby Kitchen

·  Sourdough Focaccia with Crispy Garlic from Baking Sense

·  Sourdough Pain Noir from What Smells So Good?

·  Sourdough Whole Wheat Flatbreads from Sneha's Recipe

·  Walnut Levain Bread from Karen's Kitchen Stories

·  Whole Wheat Papo Secos - Portuguese Rolls from The Schizo Chef


It was the first full moon of Autumn yesterday. The Moon rose early. We could see the buttery radiance suffused on the sky behind the Banyan tree. Soon, a huge Moon appeared, a little pale but majestic and mesmerizing.

 The first Full moon of Autumn is also our harvest festival- Sharad Purnima. On this day, the   Moon is nearer to the Earth and hence looks larger than any other full moon night. It is believed that the Moon showers amrit (elixir) today. The rays of the Moon impart medicinal qualities to the herbs on Earth. People prepare kheer (rice pudding) and keep it under the moonlight. The nutrition of the Moon cools the Pitta in the body thus imparting a calming effect.

Next morning we baked a very coconutty Coconut Cardamom Semolina Cake. We had a fresh coconut at home. It was grated and added to the batter. We added roasted coconut oil for a deeper flavour. Cardamom added a beautiful aroma. The cake was loved by all. I recommend that you add coconut oil to get a more intense flavour. How simple ingredients weave magic in this cake! You must bake one to believe.

Coconut Cardamom Semolina Tea Cake


  • 1 cup fine semolina
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unrefined cane sugar or caster sugar
  • ½ cup melted butter/ coconut oil
  • ½ cup thick yogurt
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 cup finely grated fresh coconut
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3-4 green cardamoms


  1. In a large bowl, take the first five ingredients.  Mix well to get a smooth batter. Cover and keep for 25 minutes.
  2. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Grease one 7 inch round cake pan or a bundt pan.
  3. Add grated coconut to the batter. Add milk little by little stirring well after each addition.
  4. Powder the cardamom seeds. Add to the batter.
  5. Add baking powder and baking soda. Stir well.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan for 40-45 minutes or till the top turns golden.
  7. Remove from the pan after 5 minutes and cool on the rack.
  8. Slice when cold.

We went for a morning walk after a very long break. It was refreshing, rejuvenating and a happy feeling. Fresh air, birdsongs, and greenery especially post rains is a magical experience. We wondered why we did not come out of lethargy and start the regime earlier. Back home, it was still early morning and the Sun had not risen. We headed to our terrace for breathing exercises. My dad used to do yoga and pranayama here at his favourite corner in the terrace. We also chose the same corner.

Soon, we saw the Sun on the horizon. It looked like a huge ball of fire in the ashen sky. There was a slight haze in the atmosphere and hence we could see the Sun comfortably. 

Within seconds it rose up, acquiring brightness, and radiance.  
Autumn is the season of festivals, of fasting and feasting. We had a lot of buckwheat flour in the pantry. We decided to bake some healthy brownies. 

We had a lot of milky walnuts from the hills and that too went into the shiny, satiny brownie batter.   By evening, we had a batch of eggless and gluten free decadent brownies that tasted delicious. Brownies were moist, chocolaty, gooey, fudgy and just out of the world. It is a happy feeling to enjoy a dessert that does not leave you guilty. Kids had with ice cream. We drizzled some chocolate sauce on our pieces.

Eggless Buckwheat Flour Brownies (Gluten Free)


  • 3/4 cup buckwheat flour (kuttu ka atta)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Soda
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil/butter
  • 1 cup unrefined cane sugar/ powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup thick curd
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line one 7x7inch square pan with the parchment paper horizontally and vertically and extending along the sides.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together first four ingredients. These are dry ingredients.
  3. In another deep bowl, beat coconut oil/butter with sugar. Add curd. Beat till smooth. Add vanilla essence.
  4. Mix dry ingredients and stir well to get a smooth batter.
  5. Fold in 1/4 cup walnuts.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin. Tap on the counter. Sprinkle the remaining walnuts on top.
  7. Bake for 20 -25 minutes. Keep checking after 20 minutes by inserting a toothpick in the center. The toothpick should not come out with liquid batter. There should be some crumbs sticking to the toothpick.
  8. Cool on the rack. Slice when cold.
  9. Serve with ice cream or chocolate sauce as dessert.

It is late evening. The beauty of Autumn is at its best. We dragged the chairs out in our verandah. The Sun has just set and the dusk is creeping in. The moon is already out and bright. A flock of migratory birds flies by silently in a row.  

Flowers are blooming abundantly. There is beauty all around. 

We relish the magnificence of nature and enjoy the gorgeousness of blossoms.
Our kitchen garden has a lot of aubergines growing. We plucked some for a focaccia that has been planned for dinner. 

Thin slices of aubergines and a generous sprinkling of cheese and herbs, the focaccia is out of the world. 

We loved it with hot soup.

Aubergine Focaccia|Brinjal  Focaccia



  • 2 ½  cups all-purpose flour
  • ½  cup whole wheat flour
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup warm water (plus more if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½  teaspoons instant dry yeast


  • 2 medium size fresh aubergines (brinjal)
  • 1 ½  teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cubes grated cheddar cheese (or more according)
  • 2 teaspoons Italian spice mix or mixed herbs


  1. Add sugar to warm water. Stir to dissolve and add yeast. Cover and keep till frothy.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together both the flours, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil
  3. Add yeast mixture and knead the dough. Push dough with the heels of the hand and pull it back with fingers. Knead like this for 5-6 minutes till you get a soft and supple dough.
  4. Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Turn around so that it is evenly coated with oil. Cover and keep for 1 hour or until double.
  5. Cut the aubergines into 1/4-inch thick slices. Sprinkle salt. Toss well. Keep them on a tilted plate to drain excess water. Cover and keep for 20 minutes.
  6. Press the aubergine slices between the folds of paper napkin till dry. Keep aside
  7. Line a baking tray with a parchment sheet.
  8. Punch the risen dough. Divide into 4 parts. Roll out each piece into a rectangle or oval (about 9 x 5 inches)
  9. Place on the parchment sheet. Brush liberally with olive oil. Spread grated cheese. Place aubergine slices (tightly packed). Drizzle olive oil on the slices. Sprinkle grated cheese. Sprinkle half  teaspoon herbs mixture.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven at 190 degrees C for 20-25 minutes till the edges become golden.
  11. You may bake two to three focaccia at a time depending on the size of your baking tray.
  12. Serve with soup.

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