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tea

Cocktail: Naughty Royaltea with DIY Earl Grey Gin

Cocktail: Naughty Royaltea with DIY Earl Grey Gin

Recently, when I was pondering about this topic of making time, it struck me that alcohol has been a time tested resource for unwinding and collaboration offering that un-prejudiced social lubricant. Looking back, I realised that tea for the privileged, whether be it the czars of Russia, Lords of Britain or the billionaires of UES, seems to have been less about the leaf tea and more (always) about spirits, from champagne to vodka to everything in between. 

It seemed rather a no-brainer that my next tea concept had to have alcohol. But, I didn't want it to be just another cocktail hour. I had to have a connection with the tea itself. When a friend suggested tea flavored gin, the concept stuck with force!

So, I started with home infused Earl Grey Gin and finished with my favorite 5 pm cocktail with soda and lots of lime!

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Moravské Koláče (Moravian Koláče)

Double filling Moravian Koláče with tea

This is a return-to-the-fold post for me. Several years ago, when I was starting out in the blogging community and did not know how to 'meet' people there, I subscribed to a couple of groups on

The Daring Kitchen,

Bakers and Cooks. The idea appealed to me. It was like a secret society, but one where everyone was supportive and we all got a learn a ton through the monthly challenges.

I have to say my learning curve jumped by leaps and bounds after colluding with these guys for a few years. I also met some amazing bloggers through the platform, who continue to be inspirations today. As is inevitable with such groups, one by one, we split away and went our own ways and stopped partaking in the monthly rush of making something new, posting about it and more fun, checking out what everyone else had done with the challenge. I remember in those days, I would bookmark a few hours of the last saturday of every month, for blog-hopping and marveling at the latest creative twist or imaginative styling.

Double filling Moravian Koláče

I remember how

Helene's

pastries were always visually stunning and perfect. That is what I aimed for. I remember

Deeba

being the most loyal member and always helping everyone in the group.

Jamie's

stories were always enthralling and

Meeta's

fresh, clean styling was something to hanker after. My own technical curve angled rather high both in repertoire of dishes as well as in photography. Over the years, I have had some great successes, humbling

disasters

and original sparks (like

avocado mousse entremet

and

eggless matcha roulade

). Most of all, it was incredible fun and a strong sense of belonging. We discussed in hush whispers on private chats and mails. It was all too frat-like to not love.

My last post on a Daring Bakers challenge was

Feb 2011

! I left because I was back working full time and I simply could not find the luxury of time to post on a regimen. I also felt that I was then ready to take flight and do something else.

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Over the last year, I have been thinking about the group, off and on and debated re-joining them. I would distractedly check the challenges and not many inspired me. Also, pretty much everyone I knew before had left. But, last week when I checked in again, the recipe inspired me despite the fact that it involved gluten. It was a czech yeasted bread recipe that promised yummy tea treats. I love learning a new regional dish and this one spoke to me. So, I decided it was time to come back.

Also, my inner guilt pulled at me particularly hard. I felt I had forsaken the community and left when it was convenient. I cannot be sufficiently grateful to the founders for keeping up the amazing work and for teaching me so much in the time I was more regular.

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Double filling Moravian Koláče

Anyway, with that I leave you with the bake of the month. The September Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Lucie from

ChezLucie

. She challenged us to make a true Czech treat –

Kolaches

! Dvojctihodné or double filled Koláče was my chosen bake to show case. I chose them because they are small and cute and I have always loved cream filled pastries. And this came with the double allure of quark (a very traditional European cheese) and jam for a touch of more sweet.

As much as I am allergic to wheat, I could not help biting into the warm kolaches. They were a sincere delight! Soft and yielding as you would expect from a yeasted item (Oh! How I miss yeast!), just enough sweetness and perfect with a cup of warm tea in the nip of Fall!

Double filling Moravian Koláče

I made a few changes to the recipe. I used durum wheat to make the dough and topped the pastry with a gluten free oat and almond crumble. Also, I simply used the jam I had in my fridge and it wasn't plum. But, well, as you can guess, that is obviously up to you. The biggest modification I made was in the quark filling. The quark I found by me (for being a peasant cheese in Europe, it is awfully dear here to buy!) was a too runny to use as filling even after sweetening with powdered sugar. So I added a teaspoon each of psyllium husk and potato starch and refrigerated for 45 minutes. It came out set a bit and more workable as a filling.

With that, I hope you enjoy my take on the Czech Kolach and below is the recipe with the original streusel topping. If you want the one for the gluten free crumble, leave me a note in the comments and I'll add it. Please do check out what

everyone has made

as well.

Moravské Koláče (Moravian Koláče)

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For Dough:

3-2/3 cup (880 ml) (17-2/3 oz) (500 gm) all-purpose (plain) flour (use semi-coarse grounded if you can find in your store)

¾ cup (180 ml) (3½ oz) (100 gm) confectioner’s (icing) sugar

1 cup (250 ml) milk, warm

1/3 cup (80 ml) (2-2/3 oz) (75 gm) butter, melted

30 gm (1 oz) fresh yeast or 2 packets (4 teaspoons) (½ oz) (15 gm) active day yeast

pinch of salt

2 small egg yolks

for quark filling

3 cups (1-2/3 lb) (750 gm) quark

1 small egg yolk

confectioner’s (icing) sugar to taste

For Jam filling:

2/3 cup (160 ml) (7 oz) (200 gm) plum jam

rum or hot water to soften jam if too thick

For Streusel topping:

1/3 cup (1¾ oz) (50 gm) plain flour

¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) butter, chilled and diced

¼ cup (60 ml) (1¾ oz) (50 gm) caster (or granulated) sugar

(in fact I don’t know the exact amount I used because I always make larger batch and store it in the freezer)

To finish:

3 T melted butter or eggwash

In a bowl mix together yeast and 1 teaspoon sugar. Add 4 tablespoons (¼ cup) warm milk, mix well and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest for 10 – 15 minutes.

In a bowl of your electric mixer (or in a large bowl) mix flour, sugar, salt, egg yolks, butter, milk and leavened yeast. Knead with dough hook (or with wooden spoon) on low speed for about 10 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about one hour to double its volume.

Meanwhile prepare quark filling – just mix all ingredients – and plum filling – mix plum jam with rum or water to soften it. Set aside.

Prepare streusel topping. In a medium bowl, mix together sugar, flour and cinnamon. Add cold butter diced in small cubes and with your fingers, mix all ingredients until crumbly.

When the dough has risen, turn it onto a lightly floured surface and roll it with rolling pin to a thickness of about 2 cm (¾ inch). Cut with 10cm (4 inch) cookie cutter or just with a glass (if you want small kolaches) or divide the dough into 10 equal pieces (if you want large kolaches). Splat each piece with your hands and fill with quark filling. Wrap it into a “purse” shape.

Preheat oven to moderate 340°F/170°C/gas mark 3.

Line 2 – 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Put each kolach onto a prepared baking sheet with seam down. Press each kolach in the middle as you can see on the picture below. Brush it with egg wash and fill holes with plum filling. Sprinkle it with streusel topping.

Bake for about 20 minutes to golden brown. Cool on rack for a few minutes and eat warm.

Kolaches are best eaten within two days on baking.

Me time .... and Oat biscuits

I am a dreamer.

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I have a permanent second channel in my

mind pursuing some form of fantasy

... Often times, this channel is tuned firmly on food and the food related. At others, it is day dreaming about exotic places that I make very elaborate mental plans to visit replete with detailed notes. Oh and some times, it does descend into a mild form of neurosis on any number of topics ranging from the sad state of big name driven food monopolies to the impact (or really lack of) of a spineless democracy on my immediate life.

At many times, this second channel bullies itself into my primary zone of cognizance and entirely overruns the whole cortex of my brain. This is when, in a surrealistic trance, I find myself spending hours pouring over many, many sites researching in minute detail and being restlessly inspired. After that, I will have bleary eyes, a parched throat and jittery fingers but a very actionable list of to-dos and resolutions on a certain subject.

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Then, rejuvenated yet weary, I will hobble into the kitchen to make myself some

strong coffee with a side of digestive biscuits

, come back and sit at my table by the window to

ponder more certainly on something else

. I love that little ritual.

That brief

space of time to myself

when I abashedly surrender to my fantasies and world-changing ideas or just a bit of internal vision leading upto a major (or minor!) breakthrough or just settling in peace with everything around me and being happy with life!

The point of this long prelude is, yesterday, I bounded into the kitchen looking forward to this me-time and lo behold! what do I find? No biscuits! My world came crashing down! I was loth to trudge the few blocks to Fairway to pick some up and suddenly inspired by the scores of blogs I had been browsing prior, I decided to...

make my own biscuits

!

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Well, what I, eventually, baked were

far more decadent and worthy of dessert cookies

but nevertheless made for a rich afternoon experience and deservedly so! These cookie-biscuits are perfect dunked or crunched or just taken a deep bite off. Oh! I find they are also splendid to accompany a riveting episode of

Downton Abbey

, which, is my latest viewing obsession! I just began season 3 and I find myself squirreling away time and extending lunch hours to accommodate just a little more of the Crawleys (especially

Matthew Crawley

).

Ok! I just found out the sickening twist of season 3 (thanks to google! :() I think I am going to give up on the entire series! :(( Bawwl! Not fair! Totally rankling the dreamy bit in me.... That's all I have to say! Sighhhh

Oat Biscuits

[adapted from

BBC Good Food

]

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75g old fashioned oats, as finely ground as you can

75g spelt flour

75g raw sugar

75g organic butter, room temperature

1 tsp baking powder

1 T golden syrup

1 T warm whole milk

Whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Heat the syrup with the milk to thin it a bit and add to the butter. Fold in the flour, oats and baking powder. If the mixture is too crumbly, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it comes together to form a log. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for 20 or so minutes to set and cool.

Slice the log into quarter inch thick pieces and lay them on a prepared pan. Just press each slice to flatten and shape appropriately.

Bake at 350 F for 15 minutes until golden brown on top and the smell of brown butter wafts through the house. Cool for a few minutes and then eat. The cooling bit is important as the cookies will still be soft and delicate when they come out of the oven. They harden as they cool.

Everyday...

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I smile.

I laugh.

I cry.

I play.

I run.

I stop and look over.

I wink.

and, it begins again.

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the process of being happy.

finding the little me. finding the big me. holding hands and skipping together.

letting go. letting in.

living life. being present.

always being in touch.

Hello life! look what i & I baked for you! :)

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Banana Streusel Cakes

(makes 6 cupcakes)

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for the cake:

1 overripe banana, mashed

2/3 cup spelt flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup raw sugar

4 T butter, room temperature

1 egg, whipped lightly

1/3 cup milk

for the streusel topping:

2 T rolled oats

2 T flour

2 T raw sugar

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

1 T melted butter

Sift the dry ingredients together. In another bowl, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the egg. Then add the banana and milk and make a smooth puree. To this add the dry ingredients in three parts until just incorporated. Divide the batter into six cup cake molds.

In a small bowl, mix together ingredients for the streusel topping. Divide equally on top of the cake batter.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350F for 15-18 minutes until the top is crusted and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes and devour warm and with ice cream...!

Weekend and White-Out coconut Cake..

Coconut cake with Meringue mascarpone frosting

I love Snow! I really, really do. :)

It's ethereal! There is something fresh and pure about it.

Of wiping slates clean.

Of an another chance.

snow-collage

Of finding the inner child, in sticking your tongue out to catch the gentle drifts.

Of being oblivious, to all judging when you do the four-left-feet dance in freshly fallen fluffs.

Of joy, in seeing a gorgeous, healthy, happy dog tumble around in the white carpet.

Of unbounded ecstasy, that all of the above builds in you.

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This weekend, all of this happened. I live again and feel every molecule in me bursting to say hello to the world!

Yes, I love snow.

In the end, in the city, it was not as bad as portended! The weekend was nippy but well worth venturing out to warm places, crunchy fresh croissants and good coffees and of course coming back into the warmth of home to happy meals, fresh bread and white cakes. :)


Coconut Cake with Meringue and Mascarpone Frosting

For the cake layers:

{I use coconut flour to bring out the flavor in the cake especially since I don't use any essence. Essentially, it is super-finely ground dry coconut. You will find it in the organic aisle of major food stores.

I used a 6 inch and a 4 inch cake pans to create a step. You can also use two 5 inch pans}

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For the Cake:

1/2 cup spelt flour

1/2 cup coconut flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 T cup un-sweetened shredded coconut

generous 1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup coconut milk (I used the drinking version which is lighter and thinner)

6 T butter,room temperature

2 egg whites and 1 yolk

Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift together the dry ingredients. Whisk the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Gently fold in the yolk. Whisk in the coconut milk. Add the dry to wet ingredients in three parts. Set aside. Whip the whites until stiff peaks are held. Gently fold in the whites into the batter with as few turns as possible while making sure you don't deflate the airiness.

Pour batter into prepared pans to 2/3rd of the lip in each pan. Bake for about 40 minutes until golden and cake is springy to touch. Set on rack to cool completely.

For the frosting:

1/3 cup mascarpone cheese

1 large egg white

1 T butter

1 T golden syrup

1/4 cup powdered sugar

toasted shredded coconut

Melt butter and syrup together and set aside to cool. Loosen the mascarpone with a bit of cream and whip in the powdered sugar. In another bowl, whip up the whites to stiff peaks. Gradually stream in the cooled butter-syrup mixture until a shiny but loose with the granulated sugar until shiny but loose meringue is formed. Continue whipping for another minute to completely cook the whites. Fold in the meringue into the mascarpone.

To assemble:

Slice each cake in half and generous spread frosting between layers. Frost sides of each cake. Place the smaller cake on top of the other and even out the frosting. Gently apply the toasted coconut on the assembled cake to finish the frosting.


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