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.
There is a lot of scepticism when it comes to unusual , different , experimental flavours in baking. Especially if you have those in the traditional bakes – the cakes, the cookies, the pies and tarts, the breads. And because I am a healthy and inclusive #baker a lot of my baked stuff is viewed in the same way. My favourite words for anyone who wonders how it might taste is – “Healthy bakes are an acquired taste. They are not the same as the regular ones. They are different. A good different.” There are many who will not bake without all purpose flour or refined white sugar because they believe they do not want to compromise on the flavours. And that’s just fine.
Because for me when I weigh factors on some very basic scales like what I want to give my family, what I want to give the street kids I distribute bakes to , what I want to give my friends , what I want to give my clients – is health. Is always nutrition over flavour. Is always a different kind of delicious , over what is regular. It takes a lot of path-setting stuff and almost incomprehensible amount of courage to experiment with some of the flours, fats and natural sweetners that I work with. And it’s totally worth it ! A picture of some experimental mix that I will eventually turn into a tart shell or a biscuit – yet to make up my mind on that one.
But while I decide on that, here is a quick , nutritious and simple recipe of the Walnut-crusted Baked Fish Fillets flavoured with Mustard for all of you to try out !
Basa Fillet – 1 big one, you can clean and into small pieces.
1/2 cup – Walnuts crushed using mortar and pestle. Do not grind in mixer.
Salt, paprika powder, thyme – 1 or 2 tsp of each, as per your taste preference.
1 or 2 tsp of mustard powder.
Coated the cleaned pieces of fish with a mix of crushed walnuts , salt, paprika powder , thyme(you can use basil if you prefer) and mustard. Apply some olive oil before coating.
Sprinkle some drops of lemon juice and then wrap gently with amaranth leaves. Place it in an oven proof dish on a bed of Amaranth leaves with some oil drizzled onto it.
Bake at 170 degree C for 20 mins in preheated oven. Check to see if the fish has cooked through and serve.
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.
Happy Sankranti , Lohri, Pongal ! What’s a harvest festival got to do with us – city folks to the hilt, rushing within the cycle of which new app to order food from or which new website to order clothes from. Don’t get me wrong – these are very important.
But so is the ability to pause , sow the seeds of the unexplored path you want to take and harvest the choices your soul makes. Sometimes that choice takes you down the beaten path , sometimes it gives you the courage to meander.
If you had asked me 6 years ago I would have looked blank when you said ‘vegan’ . More blank if you told me that I could bake a vegan cake that I did a couple of days ago.
But then, I meandered and happily lost my way into a world I didn’t know – that of healthy baking 🙂
Happy Harvesting of the choices your soul wants to make – let it meander !
In the spirit for vegan baking, here is an exciting recipe for you to try out 🙂 And to make it better, it is also gluten-free.
If you are like me then you love the taste of something to go with your morning cup of tea . I do not have a sweet tooth and so usually a mildly sweet rusk works well. But I love a good savoury option like these mathri which are made with fresh Amaranth (Lal saag) leaves , cumin seeds and a hint of spice .
Not your traditional mathri / matthi but yum all the same 🙂 for my son I did a non vegan version with ghee or clarified butter.
Flours used in this are gramflour and rice flour. Enriched further by using moong dal water rather than regular water.
1 cup gramflour
2 tbsp rice flour
1 tbsp jeera / cumin
1 tbsp ajwain / caraway
Freshly chopped amaranth leaves
Salt and red chilly pepper as taste
1 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup oil
Moong Dal water to bring together the dough.
Mix all the dry ingredients well so that the spices are uniformly spread in it. Add the chopped leaves into this and make sure that they are coated with the spiced flour mix. Slowly add the oil and mix until it looks like coarse bread crumbs. Then add the moong dal water slowly until the dough becomes soft and like the consistency of puri dough.
Let it rest for an hour. Then start rolling it and cutting it into round shapes.
Bake in a pre-heated oven for 20 minutes, at 160 degrees C. Cool well and store in air tight container.
Gearing up to start 2018
The cupboard can definitely be cleaner but that’s the best I can manage with a 5 year old and a 6 month old acquiring new personalities in 2018 – while one has discovered that she has a voice and she must use it at the highest pitch possible , the other has realized that he still prefers his sister’s rattles to his puzzles ( as is the case with all siblings !) .
But then 2018 was never going to be about a cleaner baking cupboard it is about more and more opportunities to dig into it and try out all that it contains !
One such opportunity arose when I had to think through a healthy ingredient, for my healthy baking community bakers on Facebook, Ovenderful Mom Bakers Community, to bake with, for the month of January. And guess what – its Coconut !
Here is my first take ( or rather bake!) – a lovely Wholewheat Coconut Almond cake with coconut sugar. The thick sauce on top is a mix of Coconut cream, coconut powder and some almonds.
1 1/4 cup wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 dessicated coconut
1/2 ground almonds
3 / 4 cup coconut sugar
100 gms butter
1/2 cup milk
Preheat the oven at 165 degrees C for 10 minutes. Cream the butter and sugar well. Add the eggs and mix, one at a time. Add the ground almonds and dessicated coconut, and mix well. Add the sifted flour and milk, alternately.
Transfer into an 8 inch round pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes and allow it to rest before removing from the pan.
For the topping, all I did was mix coconut cream and some coconut powder. I am fine with the mild sweetness that the cream lends. But if you want it sweeter, add a healthy sweetener of your choice.
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.
I had started this post on another note. But then something prompted me to rewrite it in another way, to share a perspective – about different kinds of opinions, about breaking internal barriers, about evolving times and then some more.
It’s interesting to hear many schools of thought from various bakers – how 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.
Has happened to me as well – healthy bakes are an acquired taste, they come to you over a period of time. Have you given it that time ? As I think back to my own approach, I know I can say this with absolute conviction – 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.
But what if, just what if we opened the window of our mind a wee bit – If we simply make a small change? Instead of beginning with the mindset that they can’t be yum, let’s just re-align our minds to understand that they will be different. That’s it. You have taken the most important step.
Because you know what – closed minds will always lead to redundancies – no matter what area of work or passion you follow. Because the world is evolving and if we keep following rule-based baking and do not experiment with healthier ingredients, guess who loses – our family and friends, because they deserve healthier options and as the bakers it is our responsibility to make that change. Yes 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 ?
Blame it on your present lifestyle? You may have done that already.
Change food habits to suit present lifestyle – Have you done this yet?
Assure yourself of how we have grown up with these ingredients? You may have done that already.
Tell yourself that what you eat as you ‘grow older’ should change too –– Have you done this yet?
Oh but you eat all that stuff only of special occasions –You may have done that already.
Oh but you love your tea biscuits daily, so should you change that-– Have you done this yet?
So here’s a recipe to ease you into Healthy Baking (it does exist!)
Wholewheat Apple-Coconut Cake
1 1/2 cups of wholewheat flour
1 1/2 tsp of baking powder
1 large apple, peeled and grated
1/2 cup of grated fresh coconut
1/2 cup of coconut sugar
2-3 tbsp of honey
100 grams butter
1 tsp of cinnamon ( freshly grated)
Almonds ( chopped)
Preheat the oven at 170 degrees C.
Sift wholewheat flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder and keep aside. Grease and dust a 7×7 square pan.
Mix the butter, honey and coconut sugar with a whisk first then beat them well so that it becomes creamy. Add the eggs one at a time and beat well.
Add the sifted flour-bp-cinnamon mix into the tin. Lastly fold the grated apple, coconut and almonds into the batter gently. No need to beat at this stage.
Transfer it into the tin, bake at 170 C for 45 minutes, until it becomes golden brown. Cool it well before de-moulding it.