3 reasons why we should distribute healthy cupcakes to kids to give a moment of joy when the poverty that surrounds them cannot be removed with just one baked good ? Well, there are more than 3 and very good ones at.
Bangalore, April 2012. We had just moved to a city we didn’t know anyone in. Mala Didi, 60+ years old came to our home, asked if I wanted help with cooking and since I hadn’t hired a cook before, I was a bit uncertain. But I had also discovered that day that I was pregnant with my son and with a full-time job plus the complications, I will need help. I said Yes. She started coming. A few days of hesitant instruction-giving from my end about what we ate, followed. A few days of curt nods in response to those instructions, followed. Slowly, Didi started observing how I was trying to juggle my new-born baby, the full-time job and my nascent home baking venture. And without a word she would do small steps that made me save crucial time – she would ask me what I was baking that day. I’d say “Date & Walnut Cake” . And quietly she would break the walnuts, chop the dates and leave them near my oven. She would ask a general question about how many loaves I had to bake, and since she knew I had only 1 loaf tin going into that 18 litre MR, she would see to it that the used one was washed and greased just I wanted it. My “thank you” was met with a gruff “yes , yes ( in Bengali)” almost as though she was self-conscious of being thanked for it. Then came a day when Didi’s son was diagnosed with cancer of the foot for the first time, and she had to go to Calcutta. She was distraught and yet, as a grandmother’s heart is – in the middle of her worries, she asked me if I could bake a chocolate and banana cake for her grandson. She carried it along and the little boy loved it.
Here is my tribute to that lady whose grit despite life’s odds has been unmatched. Her son has been diagnosed yet again with cancer on the other foot. But she stood by him quietly yet again and helped him fight it. Just has she had stood by a new mother who was constantly on the verge of abandoning her home baking venture. She made me realize through her gestures, that I must go on and make it work. In some ways her grit and determination rubbed onto me.
The Gluten-free Buckwheat Chocolate Banana Cake (No maida/no refined white sugar)
1 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
100 gms good quality dark chocolate ( at least 50% cocoa)
2 ripe bananas ( small)
2 small chopped fresh figs just for added flavour and texture
1 tsp baking powder
50 gms butter
1 cup milk
Mix the mashed bananas and egg together. Melt the butter and chocolate. Shift the flour and bp. Add the butter-chocolate mix to the banana-egg milk and ensure that all the ingredients are mixed well. Add the flour and milk alternately. Fold the chopped figs in.
Transfer to a loaf tin that has been greased and dusted. Bake at 170 degrees C for 30 minutes. Remove from tin and allow it to cool.
For the first 12 years of my school life , I went to a school that did not have its own field. It was the best school that I could have gone to – inclusive , close-knit, encouraging and warm. But we didn’t have a field that we could call our own – our Sports days were conducted in the field of another school. Our ‘heats’ and practice races were conducted in a large maidan / public ground. All that came rushing back to me as I sat in the pavilion and watched the field being prepared for the Sports Meet for my son’s class.
The way he would come and describe his field practice each day lifted my heart. The way he spoke about how they were running the races , made me smile immediately. The thrill of being in an open space , running a race , with your friends , the march-past , the flags , the dust-covered sports shoes. A child who didn’t care that the field didnt belong to her school when she ran. A child who didn’t care that the field did belong to his school when he ran.
It was as if Calcutta 1988 had merged into Bangalore 2018, seamlessly, from one childhood to another. From one field that we couldnt call our own, to one that we could.
We just loved the thrill of running a race, then and now
Alongside that we also love a Butterfree , white sugar-free , Gluten-free Brownie that melts in the mouth. Yup, that’s what a treat should be.
Superfood Amaranth ( if you didn’t know it already, it is my favourite flour ) in the form of grains mingled with dark chocolate – who says we need sugar or butter to make life happier ? 🙂
- 170g Dark Chocolate ( I used Bournville- 50% Dark)
- 50 ml Sunflower Oil
- 80 g Raw Sugar or Coconut Sugar
- 50g Sorghum / Jowar Flour
- 25g Amaranth Seeds , coarsely ground into a flour
- 2 Eggs
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
Mix the chocolate and oil, and melt over a double boiler. Let it cool. Whisk together the sugar, the flours, baking powder. Preheat oven to 170°C.
Beat the eggs well and then add them to the melted chocolate-oil mix. Add the vanilla. Beat well. Pour the batter into your brownie pan or square tin which is lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. Cut into slices and serve.
Chanced upon this place in the heart of Bangalore and what a serene place it was , with a sense of purpose. A plant nursery by the Association of People with Disabilities, and the memory I will have imprinted on my mind is of a young boy without legs, expertly guiding us through the rows of plants to help us choose what we were looking for. I did not want to embarrass him by taking a picture and so I strongly urge you to visit the place to meet him, and realize how knowledgeable he is.
Truly the mind is so much more powerful than the body will ever be.
And the icing on the cake was to see my son loving plant our plants into the pots 🙂
What more could one ask for , to brighten up a weekend ? There is one more thing that could brighten it up a wee bit more 🙂 These yum and healthy fudge squares.
Baked Jowar – Oats Dark Chocolate Fudge Squares
- 200g dark chocolate, broken into cubes (I used Bournville, 50% Cocoa)
- 3/4 cup coconut sugar
- 125 gms butter
- 3 eggs
- 3/4 cup flour mix ( half jowar, half powdered oats)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Pre-Heat the oven to 160 C. Prepare a square tin or square sectional baking pan, since this is a traybake.
- Melt the chocolate, coconut sugar and butter in a pan. Keep stirring with the whisk and then when its well mixed, remove it from the heat. Allow it to cool off.
- Beat in the eggs, flour mix and vanilla extract.
- Pour the mix into the tin and bake for 25 mins or so.
- Cool in the tin and then cut into squares.
There is a moment of calm at the point where a super tiring day ends and a sleepless night begins – that moment is this picture for me. Football buddies don’t need to have the same shoes or shoes at all. They don’t need to speak the same language. They don’t need to wear similar clothes. They don’t need to carry where they come from to the field – they need to simply carry who they are. They only need to have the same passion. They only need to discover the sense of rhythm, that works for them and their game. And that is the game that is in play, with a great sense of concentration between the two boys – the one of the right is my son, the one on the left is the little boy we met at Richmond Park, when we were playing there.
On that note of carrying who they are from within, here is one fruit that carries its depth of flavours in all bakes – Orange.
I did a batch of Semolina/Sooji Cupcakes with Kinu, which is a variant of orange but more intense in flavour:)
Here is the recipe for you to try out.
- 100 g unsalted butter, softened
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind/orange rind
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups semolina
- 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
- ½ cup milk
- add a little vanilla extract
- For the Kinu syrup (check the sugar in the syrup to ensure that when combined with the cupcakes it does not become excessively sweet) 1/4-1/2 cup caster sugar Almost 1/2 cup lemon or kinu juice, strained
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line cupcake tray with liners.
Using an electric mixer, beat butter, orange rind and sugar on high speed. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating between each addition.
Stir in semolina, ww flour and milk.
Spread mixture into cupcake liners. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
Meanwhile, make the kinu syrup: Place sugar, kinu juice and a little cold water in a saucepan over low heat.
Pour half the syrup over cupcakes by make tiny insertions to allow it to get absorbed. Let it stand for about 15 minutes and then serve.
I had started this post on a separate note. Then something prompted me to re-write it. So here goes…
About evolving times but stagnating taste buds. About oscillating between wellness and rules. Some of the views that I hear as a healthy baker are – healthy baking is a fad or what we consume through our traditional bakes is not harmful or even better, there is nothing called healthy baking.
And in my mind – all I am thinking is, even the best of us can sometimes get trapped in the confines of our own minds, get tricked by our own taste buds, get slowed down by our own lack of courage.
Yes, healthy bakes are an acquired taste, it does not happen overnight, it comes to us slowly. But it only comes to those who approach it with an open mind. Have you given yourself enough opportunities to open your mind? Forget a big change, just try this to start with – instead of beginning with a thought that it can’t taste delicious, tell yourself that it will taste different. Possible?
Let’s just try and remember that when the world evolves at the pace that it is now, everything has a disruption which leads to the next phase of growth- The same is happening with rule-based baking. We owe it to our family and friends to bake with healthier ingredients, because our lifestyles and the quality of what we are consuming has changed. Rules are good, but work with rules in a way that you put your wellness first and rules second. Not the other way round
So what’s YOUR next step ?
Start with this simple healthy cake – take it one step at a time 🙂
Wholewheat Apple-Coconut Cake ( with coconut sugar)
1 1/2 cups wholewheat flour
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2-3 tbsp honey
1 tsp grated cinnamon powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 large apple peeled, cored, grated
1/2 cup grated coconut
100 gms butter
Preheat the oven at 170 C. Grease and dust a 7 X 7 inches square pan. Beat the butter, coconut sugar and honey well till it becomes creamy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well. Sift the flour, bp and cinnamon together. Add it slowly to the batter while beating at low speed.
Fold in the apple, coconut and almonds gently. No beating is needed at this stage. Pour it into the tin. Bake at the same temperature for 45 minutes or till it becomes golden brown.
Remove from the oven, let it cool off entirely before de-moulding.
As a mother, let me share with you that it has been a very crazy yet happy half-year: filled with many worried nights, many days of undiluted joy, lots of second guessing myself as a mother and frustrations, of trying to weigh mother’s instinct against experience and expertise, of trying to wonder how does one need to behave when one becomes a mother..but most definitely a half-year with not a single dull moment in it.
But you know what – Thank you for being patient and waiting for me to grow into my role as your Mom…sometimes
I look at you and it seems to me that you understand what I say, you understand when I say I have two other babies –Gunna Masi and Elsu, and smile back. You understand when I say I won’t pamper you silly, but that doesn’t make me love you any less.
Most importantly you understand that seeing how you do on well-defined milestones is not for your mother, for they seem like a checklist to tick on….it is the uncharted adventures that are for me…
Like our first flight together alone means more than when you first rolled over, or our first road trip, our first visit to the children’s home, how you and Elsa started growing comfortable with each other’s presence or even our daily debates about why sleeping in the night takes precedence over playing away!
So here’s not to more milestones…but to more ADVENTURES, my son ! The adventurous journey that started when I became a mother..”
Sharing a recipe that marks the first break that I am taking from baking on order, as the Chief Baker of Ovenderful, ever since it started in November 2013.
Wholewheat Butter-free Egg-Free Chocolate Almond Cake
1 cup wholewheat flour
3/4 cup cane sugar
½ cup curd
½ cup milk
½ cup boiling water
¼ cup any flavourless oil that is safe for baking
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder ( use great quality cocoa powder, it makes a world of difference)
¾ teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped dark chocolate chunks
1/2 cup chopped almonds and some additional for topping the cake with
Grease and dust an 7/8 inch round cake tin. I used a springform one, but it is not necessary to use only that one. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
Sift together the wholewheat flour, cocoa powder, baking powder .
Beat the curd, cane sugar, oil and milk. Add vanilla extract and mix well.
Slowly add the dry ingredients to wet ones and mix well.
Slowly add boiling water and mix well ( just use a whisk, no need to beat it) to get a smooth batter. Add the chopped almonds and dark chocolate chunks, fold them into the batter gently. Pour in the baking tin. Bake for 40-45 minutes.
Let it cool off entirely before you remove it from the tin.
When my son started going to a school that was close to home, I was very happy. That would mean a short travel time for him as well as me and the back and forth from school could be done quickly.
At that stage, little did I realize that the same back-and-forth that I was keen for us to do quickly, was exactly what I started enjoying. As days went by I would linger on while walking to his school slowly, taking in whatever caught my attention.
There is a comfort that comes from being in a routine – for me routine is not about a fixed time schedule. It is the same set of trees to pass each day, the same set of sleeping dogs by the road side, the same set of cleaning ladies cheerfully gathering the fallen leaves, the same security guards across small buildings, the same old scooter parked in the corner, dusty as can be and the exact same smile full of anticipation on my son’s face as I stand outside the school gate, when he sees me there.
There is a comfort that comes from following that pattern of holding hands, chatting about the school or friends or fights, and reaching home. It is as though within those 10 minutes of walking to his school alone I find the time I look for, for myself and my thoughts. And as soon as his small hand is in mine, the 10 minutes of walking back home can get transformed into finding the time I look for, again. But this time with him – something that belongs to him and me; for him to have childhood memories to smile over and for me to have his childhood memories to find peace and warmth in, on cold winter nights.
So on that note of warmth in cold winters, here is a lovely recipe of a cake – the flavours and colours are warm and inviting. You will love the way the different elements come together into one single bake – and to add to that, its Gluten-Free and Butter-Free !
Gluten-free Butter-free 100% Almond Flour Cake with Raisins, lightly glazed with Honey-Butter Syrup
- 2 cups finely ground almond flour
- 3 eggs, separated
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Raisins as per your requirement
Beat the egg yolks well until they become frothy and slowly add half the sugar. Mix well.
In a separate bowl, mix together the almond flour, cinnamon and baking powder. Then add the flour mixture to the beaten egg yolks and beat well. Add the vanilla extract.
Beat the egg whites into peaks and add the remaining sugar to it while beating. Dust the raisins with a bit of the almond flour and keep them aside.
Slowly add the beaten egg whites to the almond mixture and fold well . Remember to be gentle and not over-mix. Add the raisins and fold them through the mix.
Gently add the batter into a the prepared baking tin and place in the oven. Bake at 170°C for 35-40 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let it cool off before de-moulding it. Use a pastry brush to lightly brush the top with a mix of honey and melted better and serve.
How did you start your “venture” ? If you are a little bit like me, which means someone who takes it slow and steady ( and focuses on the l0w-investment channels !) then its likely you might have followed the arduous route of trying whatever little you understood of social media marketing. That would mean – the FB page and groups to start with. Perhaps some more channels like Twitter, Instagram and so on.
In my case, because of healthy baking being a new concept, many people came to try out things because of dietary constraints or food preferences, but a lot of them came out of curiosity. How can you possibly bake a cake with atta ( wholewheat!) – it has got to taste like chapatti 🙂 graduated to “But isn’t white sugar essential at least for the growing children”?” and shifted to the incredulous “Your cake doesn’t contain butter, how can it taste delicious?”
Well, eventually came the slow acceptance of the use of healthy alternatives in baking. Ovenderful started becoming popular – which resulted in the next dreaded step….how does one scale up?
Don’t get me wrong – I am fairly ambitious and result-oriented, perhaps more so than most individuals. But drawing up a roadmap for a client, was far easier when I was in a consulting role, than for my own social enterprise.
But it was a challenge I was ready for and so after 3 years of turning Ovenderful into a venture, thanks to a friend’s persistence and thought process, I am happy to share the website that you can use should you like to order any of the standardized healthy bakes. For customized orders, you can email as always to firstname.lastname@example.org !
Website for orders – http://ovenderful.in/
And to thank him, I made this super yum and simple Wholewheat Chocolate Strawberry-Apricot Cake 🙂
- 4 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
- 1 cup Boiling Water
- 2 cups Wholewheat Flour
- 100 gms butter or 1/2 cup of Oil
- 2 cups Cane Sugar
- 1/2 cup Buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking powder
- Strawberries chopped as much as you want
- Dried apricots sliced into small pieces
Melt the butter in a pan and add cocoa. Then add the boiling water and mix well. Mix the flour, baking powder and sugar. Slowly add the butter-cocoa mix, and then fold in the extract.
Mix the eggs and buttermilk well. Add this to the above mix and fold in well. Do not over-beat. Add the chopped strawberries and apricots to the mix, pour into the greased baking tins and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees Celsius for 30-35 minutes until its baked through.
I am not a painter, not one by a far stretch of imagination. My mother’s committed efforts to have a drawing and painting teacher come home and teach us regularly, given her own creative inclination did not yield much result. I can claim to have made one painting at the end of our learning phase. Yes, I could draw to some extent – drawings of science experiments for my school files.
So given my painting skills one would think it strange that one of the things I thoroughly enjoy is exploring museums with paintings by painters, historical monuments and churches, and sculptures made by artists of a bygone era. So a city like Florence is a dream for me – because it has everything that one envisions as a person who loves history and art ( as an observer). The cobbled streets, the eclectic mix of street-side sculptures, the imposing Duomo wherein resides Michael Angelo’s masterpiece, the people from different walks of life, the winding roads that you can climb up and down as you gaze at the city below you.
Florence or Firenze as it is called in Italian, made it to my Top 3 favourite cities right from the moment I stepped in. And despite the fact that it was 7 years ago and I havent had a chance to revisit, it has held its place in my heart – because while some cities flaunt their art and past artists unabashedly, thus enticing tourists from across the world to come over, there are a few rare cities that stand in quiet dignity because the calibre and depth of what they hold does not need a mass of tourists. It needs a discerning and involved traveller:) And Florence is one of those.
So from the heart of Florence, as a tribute to its beauty is my bake – the Schiacciata Alla Fiorentina, which is essentially a Florentine Sponge Cake, but a healthier version of it.
- 1/2 Jowar Flour
- 1/2 Rice Flour
- 1/2 All purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- Zest and juice of 1 orange
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup warm milk
- 4 tablespoons oil
Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C. Butter your baking pan or you can choose to bake them as small cupcakes like me.
Add flours, sugar, baking powder, the juice, zest,milk, eggs and oil. Beat with a mixer until thoroughly mixed together.
Add the batter to the pan or the cupcake liners and bake for about 30 minutes or until it is completely baked ( I added some almonds as an after-thought, so you can do that if you want as well)
Cool it and serve.
There are hardly any Vegan Indian sweets to speak of, or to taste. While many Indians are vegan, gluten, dairy products, and sugar are pretty much the main ingredients to all our sweets. So what’s a vegan to do on Diwali?
First, remember, history’s got your back. There are a few gluten-free Indian sweets you can gorge on.
Boondi Laddoo are made made entirely with gram flour or besan entirely, plus who doesn’t love this classic, right? Similarly, Coconut Barfi or Laddoo with its grated coconut base makes it fully gluten-free!There are also other usual suspects such as Besan Laddoo, which is made with gram flour, and Til Laddo, which is made with sesame.
But, these ain’t no Jalebi, I know. You could try and fry yours in a vegan-friendly oil… but I can’t guarantee that how that’ll turn out.
Instead, why not try my Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake instead?
You know what they say? If you can’t join the treat time, beat them with your own-made deliciousness!
Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Cake
- 1/2 cup Jowar flour,
- 1/2 cup Ragi flour
- 1/2 tsp Baking powder
- 1/2 cup Cane Sugar
- 2-3 tbsp cocoa powder
- 1 cup Applesauce
- 1/4 cup Oil
- Preheat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius, grease a round baking pan and keep aside.
- Sieve together the flours,baking powder, cocoa and keep aside.
- Whisk together the applesauce,oil and sugar, beat together until the sugar gets dissolves.
- Add the dry ingredients to the wet one. Dont over beat.
- Bake for 30 minutes till the toothpick comes clean at the center.
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Amaranth flour – exotic as it sounds, its actually very indigenous and local to India. This is the first plant-based flour I actually tried baking with. I am not exactly certain of why or what made me explore this flour except that I was bored of doing bakes with wholewheat and more wholewheat !
I had moved onto the millet based flour bakes but Amaranth flour opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. The reason for that was – its high protein and less starchy, it is gluten-free and it also works beautifully in vegan bakes as well.
The purist in me wanted to work with flours that are truly or rather naturally gluten-free rather than the packaged “gluten-free” versions of flour.
So when The Indian Express newspaper wanted me to share a unique recipe particularly one that gives insights into how baking can actually be totally healthy, albeit different from what people defined baking as, I knew that I wanted to share this recipe. So give it a shot and do share how your Amaranth flour cake turns out !
1 cup – Amaranth flour
1/2 cup – Almond flour
1 cup – Organic jaggery powder
1/2 cup – Oil
2 – Eggs
1 tbsp – Baking powder Continue reading “Gluten Free Amaranth Flour Cake”