An ancient ritual

I married two months ago, in a fun-filled ceremony at my husband’s home, with our close family and friends in attendance. It was an efficient wedding, and very small, compared to the shindigs popular in the country now.

This is a story from after it. The wedding meant we had to visit relatives, which is an old custom. It is a way of thanking them for coming to the wedding and sharing in the happiness.

Now, I was very happy to do this, even though my family is big! We had to visit 11 families, and we bought gifts and gave our weekends to this. Here is what I was asked everywhere I went. “So, do you cook now?” Every.Single.Place. It came in different forms depending on who asked. This was uttered verbatim by my uneducated relations, while the more enlightened, those who had made the leap to the 21st century, asked me who did the cooking, whether we had a maid.

Now, forgiving the more enlightened ones who may have just wanted to know how I was faring in my new life, I want to take umbrage at the others. I didn’t know that my sole purpose in life was cooking for my husband, that my self-worth needed to be defined by whether I could cook! And the ‘now’ added to ‘do you cook’ means they think I don’t cook! I understand none of them paid me much attention when I was growing up or even after. Some of them didn’t know where I was working anymore, and asked me if I was still at a place I left 7 years ago! But then, where did the now come from? Was that an assumption I would not be able to cook? I mean I know my parents think I can’t cook but that’s because my mother’s cooking is out-of-this-world good (and because they think I’m unable to do anything anyway because for the longest time they thought I was 5 years old). But even they know I cook, I have cooked for them! But why do my relations think I can’t cook? If it’s not an assumption, who said I can’t cook? I have been experimenting in the kitchen with both baking and regular cooking for years now. I like to think I have a natural aptitude for it because my mother is an amazing cook. But apparently, that doesn’t matter.

So, by this time in the conversation, my mind is racing on all these possibilities, and I’m quite saddened. But I wake from my thoughts to find (again with the uneducated), that the conversation has moved on to something else like what my husband does for a living. In the last visit, this was a particularly bad question. The eldest of one branch of the family, my uncle is now quite old, and I understand may not know the rudiments of technology. But, that did not excuse his pestering my sweet and patient husband into fixing all the phones in the house. He kept bringing more and more phones gleefully, and asking for solutions.

Now, this is not to say I didn’t enjoy the visits. Most of my relations are delightful. They fed us amazing food and chatted to us about our educational goals and careers. They made us laugh and feel loved. And they kept heaping gift after gift on us. For those reasons and more, I loved the visits. And it was much fun chatting to my relations because many of them are adorable and I have such connections with them.

For the most part, those outweigh the negative aspects. And even with the cooking issue, I don’t mind discussing it with my cooler relations. It is those who are judgemental and gossipy I do not like. Relations can be a scourge as all of us know, but what I don’t get is why cooking is such a big deal for a woman? 1. Is it bad for the husband to know how to cook? 2. Must a woman know how to cook? 3. If she does (or even doesn’t) MUST she cook? 4. Is this the most important question to ask someone when they come to visit? 5. Would you have asked this of someone who was older or from your own generation? 6. Were you asked this when you went visiting? Ahh, the questions are endless!

Seriously, people! Let others be! You don’t have to give people a hard time!

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Chloe’s Cupcakes

My best friend recently started a cupcakes business, named Chloe’s cupcakes. She has always been creative and an excellent baker, and this is a great venture for her.
She does some amazing customised cupcakes, so do check out Chloe’s cupcakes on FB (Chloe’s Cupcakes). Also, she does delivery in the Dehiwala and Colombo areas, so you can get it delivered to your home or office.

Lemon Bars

After many months of not making anything other than brownies, I made lemon bars. Another recipe I found online, (http://ahomemadeliving.com/2013/06/lemon-bars/) it was not too difficult to make. Just follow this recipe, and do not leave it in the oven for longer than necessary. The top became hard and pasty because I left it in. But the inside was soft and juicy ūüôā

Consolidation of feedback

Thought I will share some of the comments from the lucky persons who got the most recent batches of my Tipsy Brownies. ūüėČ

Angela:

Gaaah, soft, melt-in-your-mouth-silky-smooth-sinful-chocolate-nirvana! (November 14) 

The brownies were deelish and disappeared in a flash! (November 24)

Salome:

So good they wont make it all the way home! Yummmm! (November 15)

Jaliya:

Some chewy gooey chocolatey goodness there! (November 16)

Brownies for health

Was researching benefits of brownies, and came across this:

http://www.donnieyance.com/a-healthy-holiday-treat-chocolate-brownies/

I liked it best because I use dark chocolate, but also because it said that brownies can be healthy! Go, brownies!

Rainy day here, I would love it if someone made me some brownies!

Or maybe I can try this recipe..:

http://www.painlesscooking.com/health-benefits-of-chocolate.html

Anyone want to come over? ūüėČ

Pink hearts

I don’t know why but I made a pink heart cake today. The quality of the picture is low: broke my phone, and have been refusing to get it fixed, so had to use my father’s phone.

While the color was way too much, (I should never be allowed near coloring!) the taste is fine as usual. Will be selling this come Valentine’s Day, but if you would like to order, mail me. And I promise to get the color as you want, not as my color-hungry eyes want ūüôā (oh and the color is pink pink pink, this picture does not do justice to it)

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Herculean Task No. 1: Bake 300 brownies in 13 hours

Thank the heavens I have two working ovens of different sizes!

I was recently asked to bake 300 brownies for an event in Colombo and always up to the challenge, I agreed. The euphoria lasted all of an hour before I started stressing! I had of course been baking for orders for a while now, but never had I made 300 anything in one go in such a short time. So it was with some trepidation I started.

I started at 7.30 pm on Tuesday night, baked two batches of brownies by about 11.30. On Wednesday, I worked from 5.30 am. Beat, mix, bake, beat, mix, bake! My parents were scuttling around trying to help me, and I was baking with a vengeance for over 9 hours.

The only time I had a moment to take a picture while baking.

The only time I had a moment to take a picture while baking.

By 4.30 pm, the designated end time, the house smelt of nothing but brownies and I was quite high from having had only the chocolate, but the work was done, the pieces cut up and packed, and I was ready to leave.

The event took place in New Town Hall, and by the time I got there, slightly late due to a series of mad, only-happens-when-you-are-stressed events (one of those events being a road closure that rarely happens now), the place was packed! Over 200 people had come to the event. The discussion itself was very interesting, but I will be analyzing that separately.

The only pieces I got to photograph, as the others were eaten so quickly!

The only pieces I got to photograph, as the others were eaten so quickly!

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At the end of the session,¬†the moderator took home an entire bag of brownies, and the others were left rummaging in empty boxes for brownies. People loved the brownies, and many people¬†approached me to tell me how much they enjoyed them.¬†Some had had more than one piece, and they kept on telling me how good the brownies tasted. This made my day! This race against time had not hurt the quality in any way. Very proud to have pulled this off. ūüôā

Checkered cake in the tomboy cake style

Sound different? I agree! And yet, quite delicious!

I wanted to be adventurous after a while, and decided to try out something I had not even heard of. So after about 2 days of research, I decided on the checkered cake, and made it with butter cake (I didn’t have some ingredients for sponge cake. If I had, I would have made the sponge cake as the base)

Took me a while because it was slightly more complex but after all that freezing and heating and whatnot, I had a beautiful two-layer cake for icing. 

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Then I decided to go even deeper into the adventure, and did it in the tomboy style.

This was the result:

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This is how it looks when cut:

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The cake was really yummy. Soft and moist in one layer, slightly harder in the other, and the icing just divine. 

Think I might make this for my birthday this Sunday..

Lemon polenta syrup cake-inspired cupcakes.

Had a sudden urge to bake and decided to do one of my favorites, but of course with a twist. Took me all of 50 mins including prep, baking, and washing up! That is what I call convenient ūüôā

The cake is simple.

Mix butter and sugar till creamy, add almonds (I substituted a surprise ingredient here), vanilla extract, and eggs.

Then add lemon (rind and juice), polenta, and baking powder. Bake at 180 celcius for 25-30 minutes. Sprinkle some lemony sugar syrup on top and voila, you are done!

 

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Easy peasy ūüôā

 

Cheers to a new beginning!

Starting your own business is a massive undertaking. Gone are the days when I would wait around for clients to find me, keeping it simple. Now, I am all about social media. In the past week,¬†I have been frantically creating, combining, posting, and assessing media, and have become quite good at¬†cross-posting and on the little “nitty-gritty” stuff.¬†

Here is what I have been up to since I made the decision to make it on my own on 13th August 2014. Set up an FB page, separated my WordPress posts according to topic, approached printers for packaging, did a week of trial runs of baked goodies, checked out the competition, linked all my accounts to each other, started networking, and created my business cards and got one set printed. Looks amazing, thank you Natalie! The other will be available on Wednesday, 27th. 

But the best thing is, I have had so much fun! Even when I was pulling out my hair in exasperation at software that was not working or any of the multitude of things that did annoy me, I was still having fun. And that is a great thing – at the end of the day when you give your fullest and enjoy it, you are doing something good for yourself. Fingers crossed that this will continue!

 

Bakeaholic is launched!

A quick note in celebration of the creation of my own brand for baked goodies. The Bakeaholic is up and running, and taking orders in Sri Lanka on a professional scale. The goodies on offer are chocolate cake, brownies, butter cake, and cupcakes. Other orders are also taken, please check in with me with your requirement.

Santa’s Little Helper :)

Yesterday,¬†I had a friend do the baking. She wanted some baking experience, and I was happy to help out. So with my guidance, she made brownies, this time from my best friend‚Äôs recipe. There were a few mishaps with the sugar that kept me running for the dustpan, but overall, it was a good experience, one that I would love to repeat. And it kept me busy the entire day, which is also a good thing! ūüôā

We had got a sample from Salome (best-friend/recipe provider), and throughout, I kept comparing the two. Not the best of things to do, but did achieve the purpose.

I was on measuring duty, while Kalani was on beating and pouring duty. Here she is, tentatively beating the butter, sugar, and cocoa.

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Once the concoction was made, Kalani poured it into a buttered and floured pan, and I set about leveling it. Once done, in it went to be baked for 40mins.

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The next business on the agenda was to get the glaze prepared. And once the brownies came out of the oven, the two of us had major fun applying the glaze.

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Coated it to high heavens, and kept it aside for a while. Had the brownies a few hours later, and it tasted quite yummy. Of course, we were quite high by the time we finished making the brownies, because we had been eating the corners and the little crumbled bits. The two of us just sat at the table in front of the brownies and could NOT focus on anything!

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A week of baking – trials and successes

I have been baking quite determinedly this past week. Started with brownies from a new recipe last Tuesday, another batch from an old recipe on Thursday coupled with mini orange cupcakes, and ending with Yorkshire pudding and Baked Alaska yesterday.

The first batch of brownies was super easy. It was a recipe from Malini’s Kitchen, and it took very little time (approximately a little over¬†an hour of prep and baking). It came out quite nicely:

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I used 50g less sugar than asked for, but people loved it, saying it was the perfect amount. I dusted some icing sugar over it at home, but that was only for a few pieces, so the comments were not affected by the icing sugar.

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Then, I went onto an older recipe, but that didn’t work out equally well. This time, I used chocolates (Ritzbury dark as well as normal cooking chocolate) and coffee, thus increasing its cost, reducing its efficiency. And apparently, its quality too, because the crust did not come out right and neither did the consistency. It was a little too soft and gooey, and the taste kept changing by the day. Also, the cocoa powder seemed too overpowering. So, obviously, this recipe will not be used in orders.

I made some mini cupcakes too that day. They didn’t have the icing, which I have been told will add more flavor. So, in my next batch, that is what I will do. These were meant to be lime cupcakes, but I substituted oranges for lime. What needs to be remembered is to add¬†a substantial amount of orange juice especially if the orange is a bit watery.¬†

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Finally, yesterday I made Yorkshire pudding from a recipe that was supposed to make it easier. But the puddings didn’t come out the way I expected it. It burnt a bit on top¬†but was not burnt in the middle. Comparing my recipe to another on the web, I noticed that mine was lacking some steps. So I put the bad lot down to that, and made Baked Alaska. With a few tweaks, this recipe, from the same collection as the Yorkshire pudding recipe, can be used. It was fairly easy to make, and¬†can be done quite fast. I did not freeze – except for 30mins – between layers, so¬†I finished within 1.5 hours.

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These were all trial runs because I am looking at expanding my baking to a full-time business and need to figure out which recipes work, which are cost effective, and which are quick. I will keep doing this in the coming week, so stay tuned. 

Passion fruit made sweet

For those times when you have blood-curdlingly sour passion fruit, and are wishing for some sweetness, add a few pomegranate seeds, and a few pieces of water melon, swirl, and set aside for a little while. Cooling is optional but it is best at room temperature. This adds natural sweeteners, reducing the harm of adding sugar, making it ideal for those on a diet.

Coffee Biscuit Cake

Yes, it sounds odd, and I thought it would be too. But, it wasn’t! It tasted so good, that I finished about half of it myself and nearly made another immediately.¬†

Taken from an Indian magazine, this was a very easy no-bake dessert. Took less than half an hour to prepare. Freezing time is a little longer than I could bear but, hey, that’s the way it goes.¬†

I used rusks, instead of marie biscuits. I cut them into smaller versions so that it is more easily digestible but retained the circular shape. Soaked it in the coffee (keep it dark, works well with the sugary icing), then layered with the icing which is simply icing sugar, butter, and eggs whipped up. Freeze it up for about an hour or 2 before serving it.

Desserts galore

As mentioned, last week, we decided to go to the theatre to see a stage drama. This was a local production, about politicians and local politics. Loved by the English theatre-going public of Sri Lanka, this production is now in its 4th stage, and while there was some decrease in the hilarity, is still going strong. This surprisingly inspired in me a desire for dessert.

Giving into this desire, I made cheesecake again and almond cookies (a spin-off of almond macaroons).  The cheesecake was a no-bake version authored by my best friend, and hence, I will not be publishing her secret recipe here. The cookies were made in the normal way with almonds and eggs. The differences lay in the amounts I used, which were one third of what was required and the fact that I crushed the almonds.

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I baked the cookies in a cupcake tray, and made them as small as possible. WP_20130611_006

Once baked, it came out as a thin layer of almond-filled slightly-sugary cookie. This is ideal with strong coffee to give a sugar rush, but can also be paired with your favorite ice cream.

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Also, given the bite-size portion, it is a quick snack that is easily stored. However, it is advisable to eat it quickly, as it seems prone to breaking due to its size.

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Sri Lankan pasta: easy, tasty, nothing Italian!

I began this blog with the full intention of committed writing and faithful re-enactments. However, the past week has been very busy for me. Productive but busy. First there were all the meetings with foreign officials I had to attend and translate at, which took up most of Thursday-Sunday, and before that, there were all those little things that take up one’s day and after it is over, you wonder, where did the day go!

Happily enough, I did get some cooking done. Last week was a veritable feast, at the Ranmuthugala household. Starting from where I left off, we did make the pasta. Given my mother went to do the shopping, we did not have half of the most important ingredients J She cooks and buys on instinct, so trying to get her to adhere to a shopping list is futile. Added to this, she took over the cooking, and we had something that was definitely a Sri Lankan spin-off of the Italian recipe. It was beautiful, very local, and tasted absolutely delicious, so kudos to my mother. I was happy to merely supervise from the sidelines.

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I have to make a confession here. My inspiration was actually two-fold: Wholemeal Pasta Salad, the main inspiration, and Pasta with roasted vegetables (both selected from the 2010 Hermes House publication Perfect Pasta by Linda Fraser). The original recipes called for an assortment of (seasonal) vegetables (in the case of the second recipe, vegetables that would form the basis of a rich sauce to use to top the pasta dish).

We used two varieties of pasta, spring onions, chopped garlic and onion, tomato, and carrot, and did not even add cheese. But, a generous dollop of soya sauce and garlic flavored pasta sauce really livened up the dish. We merely boiled the pasta in water and kept it out to drain, while the vegetables were being fried in vegetable oil separately. Once the vegetables were fried, we added spices to taste (salt and pepper, very basic). Finally, we put the pasta onto a large dish, spread the vegetables over it, and topped that with the two sauces. Hey presto, we had a very easily made, localized version of pasta that was tasty and not expensive.

The beginnings of an infatuation

The first food item I helped to make was probably Dhal curry, the heart of most Sri Lankan meals. Then I went on to help with coconut sambol, a spicy declicious addition to any meal, and rice. This was when I was about 7, 8 years of age. But my first baking experience was in school, where we were taught to make upside down pineapple gateau, in home science classes. It set my baking instincts on fire, but, puberty hit, I became a rebellious daughter, and refused to enter the kitchen because my mother and I could never cook together.

However, thanks to my lucky stars, I was in a relationship with a chef in my early twenties, and then fell in love with a man who loved to cook, although not a chef. I have a competitive nature, and one that is willing to experiment. The second relationship sparked my desire to cook, and I have never looked back. I have been baking somewhat haphazardly for the past 4yrs, but only started baking consistently in the past 2yrs.  I have made among others, butter cake, chocolate cake (my signature dish), (and have authored one that resembles a lava cake), cupcakes (chocolate and lemon), brownies (which were what I sold for the first time), chocolate mould, affogato, and cheesecake. I have a recipe collection that gives me constant joy, because I spend many hours a week looking through them.

What I will do in this blog, is not hash out what I have created previously, but write about what I prepare each day. I am on a challenge with myself to cook/bake something everyday this week, and if it succeeds, I will be continuing. This week, I have already made lemon cupcakes, affogato, chocolate mould, ¬†and fried ice cream. Tonight, I am planning on making either pasta with roasted vegetables or a pasta salad, depending on what vegetables my mother brings! While tomorrow I will not be able to make any given we are out for both lunch and dinner, on Sunday I will make Dark Chocolate Ravioli for dessert. Will update with progress as and when I make food. Oh and for those of you who are movie buffs, yes, “Julie + Julia” is right.