Wholewheat Vanilla Cake

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It has been a long long hiatus from the blog. First it was work, then it was travel for work, then there was travel without work, then the festivals, then some inertia, and then some more. But there have been things I have keenly waited to share; this recipe for a foolproof wholewheat cake is one of those things I cracked after a lot of trial and error with ingredients and quantity adjustments, and I simply had to share for the benefit of other people like me who deal with consistency issues in baking.

My biggest learning this season was that one cannot be a rebel when it comes to baking. Being an Aquarian, it was difficult for me to leave my whimsical side outside my kitchen and follow recipes without succumbing to the urge to substitute or tweak. It took me a long time to realise that but once I got my head around it, results followed soon enough. As I researched on my failures, I realised that one has to be mindful of so many factors while baking – nature of ingredients, validity of leavening agents, quantities, amount of beating/mixing/folding required, volume of the baking tin, oven temperature, volume of oven, resting time, and so on. I have shared a few tips and some useful article links at the end of this post. The best part about this recipe was that wholewheat does not alter the taste of the cake at all. It tastes just as its regular less healthier counterpart, and in fact packs slightly more character.

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Method:

1. In a large round glass mixing bowl, vigorously whisk butter, oil and sugar till the mixture is creamy and fluffy
2. Lightly beat and add one egg at a time to this mixture.
3. Add vanilla essence and lemon zest
4. In another bowl, mix together the dry ingredients and sift twice.
5. Preheat oven to 170 deg
6. Quickly sift and fold in the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, in 3 batches. Gently fold and do not refrain from the temptation to beat or overmix.
5. Add yoghurt, a little at a time, to adjust the consistency of the cake batter.(Batter should drop off easily from the back of a spoon, should not be too sticky or too runny)

6. Pour batter into baking tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 170 deg C for 35-40 mins.
7. Rest for at least 10 mins before demoulding.

* These quantities are for a 7 in round springform mould. For size compensations, please see this useful link: http://www.kitchenscookshop.co.uk/guides/8/ 

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Baking tips (that I learnt the hard way):

  • Understanding the exact nature of ingredients in the recipe – If we need to substitute, the exact function of the ingredient we are substituting. For example, the olive oil in this recipe is optional, but it adds to the lightness of a cake.
  • The size of the baking tin – This is important to avoid overheating or ending up with flat cakes
  • Once wet and dry ingredients are mixed, batter should be promptly plonked into oven since the leavening agents start reacting instantly.
  • The temperature of the oven – Low temperature than required may result in sunken cakes. Opening the oven door too many times may result in lowering the temperature and again,sunken cakes.
  • For the same reason as above, temperature of each ingredient is equally important to make them behave in the expected way. An easy rule is to ensure that everything, except the oven, is at room temperature during the preps.
  • A lot of recipes suggest baking soda, but I always fail to get rid of the metallic aftertaste it imparts. Some articles suggested its left behind by unreacted soda, however, I now prefer to play it safe by steering clear of baking soda. In dire straits, I use fruit soda (such as lime flavoured eno) which has given me similar results without the aftertaste.

Here are some useful links I came across that were helpful in my realisations.

Turning weight measurements to volume measurements: 

http://allrecipes.com/howto/cup-to-gram-conversions/

The chemistry behind cake baking:

http://www.culinate.com/articles/features/baking_chemistry

http://www.cookinglight.com/cooking-101/techniques/cake-baking/cake-ingredients

Working with wholewheat:

http://www.eatingwell.com/healthy_cooking/healthy_cooking_101_basics_and_techniques/how_to_bake_with_whole_wheat_flour

Baking powder vs baking soda:

http://chemistry.about.com/cs/foodchemistry/f/blbaking.htm

http://joythebaker.com/2013/10/baking-101-the-difference-between-baking-soda-and-baking-powder/

Foraging in the capital

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“So much to eat in so little time”

Delhi was impending as I waited for work to get finalised before and after the long weekend so that they fit in a manner that I get a fair share of play between work. While it does sound like a clinical plan which is too good to be true, with some luck on my side, I somehow managed to execute it with a fair amount of success. And while August was a hot month to go around in the capital, we were determined to go out and about to explore some destinations on our list. There was a fairly large number of places our friends had recommended, and we were glad we made it to a few in the time we had.

Rosang Cafe, for example. This place serves traditional NE Indian cuisine from the seven sister states and was highly recommended by friends from the capital. We headed there on a very hot day for lunch, and were so very pleased with the fare we were served. The Jadoh (rice cooked with pork fat/blood/both) and Dohnieng (pork cooked in black sesame paste) made us nostalgic for Meghalaya, whereas the wild red rice tea was very refreshing and somehow reminiscent of the Dashi often served in Japanese joints alongside your meal. The hospitable co-owner suggested I have the tea slightly warm since it
brings out the aroma and flavour of the tea, and he was so right. We took this opportunity to engage him and his wife Mary into a long tete-a-tete on the history of the place, why they had to move locations, their vision for the Cafe and how seriously they take every single review on the internet. We strongly felt and suggested they should open up one in Kolkata for sure, and predicted people queuing up for such a sumptuous meal. Their simplicity, politeness and hospitality touched our hearts and we really wish them all success and many outlets across India in the coming years.

Jadoh, Pork ribs, Dohnieng @ Rosang

Jadoh, Pork ribs, Dohnieng @ Rosang

Another new surprise was venturing out in the cyber hub. If I ignore my colleagues who thought I am stupid to be hanging out on weekends at a place so close to my office, I have to say this is the best thing to happen to Gurgaon in a long long time. I don’t count the malls though – I think they were the worst because it only added to the pressure on existing (or non-existing basic infrastructure) and inflation of property prices. Cyber hub houses a string of the best restaurants and pubs in town as of now, which are spacious and vivacious and situated in a big open space where you can actually breathe. I wish I could try out every place that has opened up there, but sadly I can only eat and drink so much in so little time.

I managed to check out the Wine Company where I tagged along with the husband who was meeting his friends and thank God I did. We had a great time with the wide array of wines on offer, most of which were very affordable by the bottle and practically at the ‘thek’ rates. The food was good, the music was better, and by about 9pm, the place was swarming with people who stood and danced because there was no place to sit. Apart from some whiskey infused meat balls and a chicken
starter that was doused in oyster sauce and sesame oil (pardon me for forgetting the names for it was a pub night), we ordered for something we saw on every other table – something they called a ‘Karari Roti’ – it looked like a huge paper thin crisp bowl, a cross between a papad and a paratha, sprinkled with coriander, chilly powder and a good amount of ghee. We fell in love with it, and I would highly recommend it whenever you go drinking at the Wine Company.

Prawn patio and Berry Pulao @ Sodabottleopenerwala

Prawn patio and Berry Pulao @ Sodabottleopenerwala

Sodabottleopenerwala was always on my list as the first Parsi restaurant to open up the the capital. I went there with my colleague, settled for a clean comforting lunch of a very fluffy and light mutton berry pulao and deliciously crispy prawn patio. The berry pulao is a fairly lighter version of what one would find at Britannia – that’s not to say which is good or bad for I am a big fan girl of the latter. However, on a working day lunch, lighter is always better especially since our office does not (yet) have a couch to catch a siesta in.

Soi7 was another place I had heard was very popular, and decided to check it out with my colleagues one evening since it had been a while we had all let our hair down together as a team. The place was, true to its reputation, booked out but we managed to grab a space on their huge terrace which is equipped with really large, almost industrial, dessert coolers, good music, an open bar counter, and for some reason, a boxing ring in the middle. Like the name suggests, the menu is Thai. We ordered for some prawn and crispy lamb starters and were very happy with it. The main course items were but slightly damp, but I guess who orders for main course in a pub duh! (except we did :-/) I also wished they said a yes to our beer choices, in fact I wish every pub has drinks they list on their menu, in stock all the time. Otherwise how can someone like me who salivates at Hoegaarden on the bar menu then settle for a Bud? Not done sir. Not until we start getting Belgian beer in our city of little-joy-these-days.

Fresh warm donuts @ Krispy Kreme

Fresh warm donuts @ Krispy Kreme

These apart, I learnt Krispy Kreme makes donuts much softer than Dunkin’. Smokies’ makes amazing slow cooked/braised red meat – lamb shanks, choicest beef cuts or a good ol’ hamburger, they do it with well-placed confidence. Fat Lulu’s indeed
makes good paper thin pizzas, and their salads aren’t too bad either, although their fruity iced-lollies may just be an acquired taste. Saravana Bhavan continues to dish out culinary comfort of the highest order in form of their quick lunch, and a coconut icecream at Mamagoto does justice to the sweet tooth like few do.

Coconut Icecream @Mamagoto

Coconut Icecream @Mamagoto

I also learnt there is absolutely no need for Gurgaonites to head to INA market anymore since, thanks to the growing expat population, grabbing a pack of jasmine rice is as easy as buying Rajma off the shelves of the several super markets in their neighborhood. I managed to bring back a small tin of wasabi powder and a packet of Ghosari (Korean dry herb used profusely in Bibimbap) although when I bought the latter I had no idea what it was and just picked it up on the whim. It has a texture akin to black fungus and gives a bite to the bibimbap (or a regular stir-fry where one is experiencing a feeling of too much homogeneity in the mouth). More on that later hopefully in one of the upcoming posts.