It is the last day of the year. There is something special about the day. A kind of peace pervades all around. Nature is calm, the Sun is mild. We are sitting on the mats spread on the grassy patch of the courtyard.  Fireball is blooming in all glory. 

Very soon the Sun shall set and the year 2017 shall pass into the annals of history. We will all go to the terrace to watch the last sunset of the year. This is a ritual we have been following since olden times. As children, we would all got to the terrace to watch the last sunset of the year. We would stay there until twilight. Then, a bonfire would be lit followed by songs, dance and some reflections on the year that was and in the end, loads of good food.

The festive spirit is soaking in as the day progresses. A bundle of wood that has been drying in the Sun will be used tonight. Our home is smelling heavenly as a Panforte has been baked for the occasion.

Panforte or Panforte Di Siena is a Christmas fruitcake from Siena Italy. Panforte is hard, chewy and full of nuts and spices and very little flour with boiled syrup made from sugar and honey to bind the ingredients. Some melted chocolate also goes into it.   Panforte is more like a candy and is very addictive.
Panforte is sliced and arranged on a plate. We are ready to welcome the New Year



  • 1 cup almonds (blanched)
  • ½ cup walnuts (shelled)
  • ½ cup cashews
  • ½ cup mixed citrus peels
  • ½ cup dried figs
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon dry ginger powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 90 grams dark chocolate
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • Icing sugar


  1. Take almonds on a baking tray. Set oven temperature to 150 degrees. Toast almonds for 10 minutes or until lightly brown and fragrant. Chop coarsely.
  2. Chop cashews and walnuts.
  3. Chop candied peels and figs.
  4. Preheat oven to 150 degrees C. Line the bottom of one 9 inch springform pan with parchment paper. Grease the sides generously.
  5. In a large bowl, take flour, spices, cocoa powder, and salt. Whisk well. Add chopped nuts, peels and figs.
  6. Break chocolate into small pieces. Melt the chocolate in a steel pan placed over a saucepan of boiling water. Pour melted chocolate over the mixture. Stir to combine.
  7. Take honey and sugar in a thick bottom pan. Place the pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Now bring it to a boil. Keep swirling the pan. Do not stir. Insert a candy thermometer and cook till the temperature reads 115 degrees C.
  8. If you do not have a candy thermometer, then cook the mixture for about 2 minutes only (after it comes to a rolling boil). If you cook beyond 2 minutes, it will become hard after cooling and will make panforte really hard.
  9. Pour this boiling syrup over the mixture. Stir well (you will have to hurry up here as it will begin to harden). Spoon this batter into the prepared pan. Level the top with the back of a spoon or wet your hands and level the top.
  10. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. Or when see you the bubbles in the edges, it is done.
  11. Remove from the oven. Keep the pan on the wire rack to cool. When it cools down but is still warm, loosen the edges with a spatula. Remove the sides. Dust the top with icing sugar. When Panforte cools completely, remove from the plate and peel off the parchment paper.
  12. Slice thinly and enjoy.

Peanut and oats Laddu are silky, soft and delicious. These laddu make an excellent healthy snacking option. These are absolutely fatfree. The creaminess of ground peanuts and soft jaggery helps in binding.

There is something very charming about life in the villages. The simplicity, the rusticity, and the easy-paced life is in harmony with the rhythm of life within. Most of our villages in the foothills are still not completely imbued by modernism. Traditionally practices still score over the use of technology. Hence life is simpler, purer and better.
Most of the villages in the foothills have jaggery making units. Come winters and these units come to life and throbbing with activity. Long queues of sugarcane laden bullock carts wait for their turn to reach these units. A simple contraption crushes the sugarcane and presses the juice out of it.  Multiple layers of cotton strainers filter the juice which is then led to huge iron vessels where the juice is boiled until it reaches a desired thick consistency. This is then set into blocks. This is how we get golden sweet and healthy jaggery that is unrefined, without chemicals and an excellent substitute for refined sugar.

We use it in our soups, chutneys, bakes, brittles, and laddus. 

Jaggery has immense health benefits. Jaggery is rich in vitamins and minerals. 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. It is highly recommended for people working in polluted zones. Jaggery helps in preventing anemia. It is rich in potassium and sodium and is known to control blood pressure. Jaggery is a very good source of energy. It is a complex carbohydrate that gives energy to the body gradually and for a long time.

Recently we got two blocks of jaggery from the neighbouring village. We had some homemade peanut butter. We used jaggery and peanut butter to make Peanut Oats and Jaggery laddu. The laddus have no added fat and are delicious. We love having them post lunch and dinner and also with tea.

We get fresh Jaggery in winters. Use the winter jaggery that comes in cakes/blocks and is unrefined, soft and pliable. Do not use jaggery powder. It will not bind the mixture into laddu. If you want to make your own peanut butter like me, find the recipe here. 

We make these laddus every winter. Some improvisations happen in every batch. Recently we made the same recipe with a teaspoon of ginger powder. It added great flavour. We also used store bought oats flour in the recipe. The fine texture of oats powder eased the binding of the laddu.

Peanut Oats And Jaggery Laddu|Peanut Oats and Jaggery Balls (Vegan)


  • 1 cup shelled Peanuts
  • 1 cup oats
  • 1 1/2 cups Jaggery, crumbled
  • A small pinch salt (avoid if using peanut butter)


  1. Take peanuts in a baking tray. Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Set timer for 15 minutes. Toast the peanuts till they begin to crackle and turn golden. Or, take peanuts in a thick bottom wok. Roast till they crackle and become golden. Keep stirring during the process of roasting. Take oats in a thick bottom wok. Roast on medium flame till they become slightly crisp and the colour just begins to change. Let the oats cool.
  2. Take warm roasted nuts in a grinder and grind them to get a fine powder.  Grind till the nuts begin to turn buttery. This will bind the laddu well.
  3. Grind oats to a fine powder.
  4. Transfer ground nuts and oats to a deep bowl. Add salt.  Mix well.
  5. Take crumbled jaggery and add to the mixture. Mix with hands. Break lumps of jaggery if any.
  6. Take a handful of mixture and shape into ball pressing the mixture tightly with your fingers. Use only one hand to shape laddu.
  7. In case if the mixture seems a bit dry, add more jaggery.
  8. Store in an airtight container.


Winter Sun is soothing and comforting. Last weekend we were out on a trip near a forest. We went out on a bird watching walk in the morning. The air was crisp, fresh and cold. 

We walked on the dew-laden grassy narrow track bordered by the lantana bushes. 

Different colours and shades of Lantana were mesmerizing.

Far in the forest, we spotted a bunch of langurs (black-faced monkeys) sunning themselves in the higher branches of a tree. 

Walking in the forest is therapeutic. 

The scent of the foliage, wildflowers and the warmth of the Sun is pure heaven.

It is late afternoon. We are soaking in the Sun. The heat of the Sun will soon wane and the cold wave will take over our world. Our home is smelling heavenly as the Slovak Paska is baking and the yeasty aroma is wafting through.

Soon the timer chimed. Kids rushed to see the bread. We squealed with joy to see a beautiful golden fragrant bread out of the oven. We sliced the bread next morning and loved it.

Holiday and festival bread takes many decorative shapes. Paska is baked around Easter and is traditionally eaten in Eastern European countries. Paska is often paired with a custard-like cheese or a delicious cream cheese spread. 
The original recipe calls for an egg. I have omitted the egg. I used a blend of all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour. In place of egg wash, I brushed the bread with milk wash. Recipe adapted from

Slovak Pasca


  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 ½ tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tablespoons instant dry yeast
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1  cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ stick (about 25 grams) + 1 tablespoon butter (softened)

Milk Wash

  • ¼ cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt


  1. Mix ¾ cup water and sugar and add yeast. Give a stir, cover and let it sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Add milk to this mix.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flours and salt. Add butter and mix well with hands.
  4. Add liquid ingredients and knead for 5-6 minutes.  If the dough feels dry or a little hard, add more water (from the remaining ¼ cup warm water)
  5. Transfer dough to a greased bowl. Turn around once so that it is coated with oil all around.
  6. Cover and keep in a warm place for about 1 ½ hour or until noticeably puffy.
  7. Turn dough onto a floured counter and divide dough into two pieces, one twice as large as the other.
  8. Roll the larger piece into a ball and place in a greased and dusted 8 inch round cake pan.
  9. To shape the larger piece into a ball, use your thumb and the palms of your hands to stretch the surface of the dough downwards. Stretch the skin on top and tuck it in. Idea is to stretch the gluten and create surface tension. A taut skin helps the bread to maintain the shape during the second rise enabling the bread to rise up and not spread sideways.
  10. Divide the smaller piece of dough into three parts. Roll out each part into thin long strands. Pinch the strands at the top and make a long braid. We need two braids. Cut the long braid into two. Pinch ends. Tuck the end under the big bread, run it over the top and tuck the other end on the other side.
  11. Repeat with the second dough
  12. Cover and keep in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours.
  13. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
  14. Brush the top of the bread gently with milk wash and bake for 35-40 minutes. Tent with a foil if the top is browning too fast.
  15. Remove from the oven, cool on a rack. Slice when cold.

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 page.
We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. Our host this month is Kalyani who blogs at sizzlingtastebuds  She chose to bake holiday breads from around the world made healthier with wholegrain flours. This was a lovely ides Kalyani. It made the bread healthier.

Here are the recipes of other members-

  • 100% Whole Wheat Bread from Cook's Hideout  

  • Eggless Whole Wheat Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls from Spill the Spices  
  • Gingerbread and Oatmeal Bread from Mayuri's Jikoni  

  • Kamut Cloverleaf Rolls from Cindy's Recipes and Writings  

  • Key-Shaped Challah with Finger Millet from Sara's Tasty Buds

  • Khameeri Puri from Sneha's Recipe

  • Oats Whole Wheat Bread from The Mad Scientist's Kitchen

  • Santa Lucia Buns from Karen's Kitchen Stories  

  • Slovak Pasca from Ambrosia

  • Spelt Banana Bread from Food Lust People Love  

  • Whole Wheat Grissini from A Day in the Life on the Farm

  • Whole Wheat Stollen from All That's Left Are The Crumbs  

  • Wholewheat Garlic Flavoured Monkey Bread from Sizzling Tastebuds  

  • This weekend baking was an experiment with water chestnuts.

    A cart loaded with fresh water chestnuts passing by was stopped. We chose the best pieces and used half of them in the stir-fried vegetables along with some fresh beans and carrots.

     Since water chestnuts do not have a perceptible flavour, we thought of adding them to the cakes. We decided on baking mini spice cakes with water chestnut puree.

    Spices perk up the bakes. Fresh spice powder made with cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and cardamom was added to the batter. The cakes turned out fabulous. A little dense and full of the robust aroma of the spices.

    Water chestnut, popularly called singhara in Hindi, has immense health benefits. It is
    Low in fat
    Low in sodium
    High in potassium
    Rich in minerals, including calcium, iron, zinc, and phosphorus
    And is a good source of energy

    We enjoyed the cakes with tea. Drizzled some glaze and had after dinner. Kids sliced the cakes into half and smeared some apricot jam. The cakes were delicious.

    Water Chestnut Spice Cakes


    • 10 water chestnuts boiled and peeled
    • 100 gms butter (1 stick butter)
    • 1 1/4 cup caster sugar
    • 2 eggs
    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    • 2 green cardamoms powdered
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 4-5 teaspoons milk as required


    • 1/2 cup icing sugar
    • 1-3 teaspoons milk 


    1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line and grease one 7.5 inches round cake pan or grease mini bundt pans.
    2. Blend water chestnuts with 1-2 tablespoons milk to get a creamy satiny puree. Measure 1/2 cup.
    3. Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
    4. Add chestnut puree. Mix well.
    5. Add eggs, one at a time and mix well. Add vanilla extract.
    6. In a large bowl, take flour, spices, baking powder, baking soda and whisk well.
    7. Mix wet ingredients and dry ingredients. If the batter feels dry, add warm milk to get the right consistency.
    8. Pour batter into the prepared pan or mini bundt pans.
    9. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
    10. Remove from the moulds. Cool on the rack.
    11. Mix the ingredients for glaze. The glaze should be thick.
    12. Serve plain or drizzle with glaze.

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