Tagged: dessert

Kickpleat’s Cinnamon-Banana bread with walnuts, raisins & butterscotch chips

4th of July. Independence day here in the United States, day of siege for those of us who happen to live anywhere within a few blocks radius of the Bay. For it is the day hordes of people descend upon the city. Some are tourists involved in long weekend travelling, others just live around the city and decide that is the day they want to visit. It’s the day when city inhabitants head out while the ones from without try to get in.

Amey and I learnt our lesson about this day the year we first moved to our apartment. We had flown out of the country and hit upon the brilliant plan of arriving back on 4th of July. The airport was like a circus with none of the fun and excitement. Getting a cab was next to impossible; the moment they heard our address, cab drivers suddenly dug their tires into the tarmac and refused to budge. As we threatened to melt into sad little puddles in the July heat, a tough old lady with green hair and a moustache took pity on our wilting forms with matching duct taped luggage and decided to drive us home, with dire warnings about how much this was going to cost us with the traffic. We could see the fog slowly inching into the city over the western hills as the cab slowly headed north at about the same pace.

An hour later we were still five blocks away. As the fireworks lit up the twilit sky, jet lag was starting to hit us both badly. But every car in front of us, behind us, next to us, was frozen in place while idiots scrambled with their cameras trying to photograph flashes of light created by distant firecrackers. As the driver’s yelled profanities reached levels that were starting to shock even my well-seasoned husband, we decided the best course of action was to get out and start to walk before some of surrounded ‘happy’ people started to hurl beer bottles at us. Just as the last firecracker lit the sky, we grabbed our luggage out of the trunk, took a deep breath and headed homeward, only to find ourselves thoroughly thwarted. From the swells that flooded towards us, it seemed like all of humanity was in San Francisco watching the fireworks. I was walked into, trod upon, and thoroughly bruised. A guy in green shorts and very questionable breath nearly shattered my eardrum with a ‘Merry Cracker day’. Amey was nearly strangled when he was given a bear hug by some girl wearing star spangled tights and a neon green tank top. We nearly lost an arm several times when out-of-breath and judgment impaired morons kept mistaking our bags for ‘something to sit on’. Bruised, bloody and heartily sorry to be alive, we finally made it to our building thirty minutes later. Amey was missing a contact lens, I was missing a slipper and my mind, at least two-and-a-half handles were broken. But-we-made-it-home, ostensibly all together. As we fell asleep on the carpet, we could hear the people and traffic outside and swore we’d never be out on July 4 as long as we lived in this apartment.

A few years later and July 4th comes around last weekend. The traffic started building up with bumper-to-bumper vehicles by 3 pm. Mothers yelled. Kids cried. Cars blared Michael Jackson through the stereo, loud enough to make the glass in my windows look like jelly. I looked out (at a safe distance from the glass of course) at the sea of people and was fervently grateful for not having left home. The fog meant it was a cool day so Amey and I celebrated in the warm embrace of an enchanting banana bread.

This is the kind of bread that is so comforting, it is magic. It can make all your woes disappear. First there is the fact that it smells like heaven when it is baking in the oven. Seriously, if Napolean or Hitler had a whiff of this bread in their day, they may have given up all ideas of world domination. This bread could bring about world peace. In the very least it brought our neighbours who we barely know knocking on our door. It smells like your favourite childhood bed is ready and waiting. It smells of misty dreams. And then, there is the way it tastes. Of bananas and fresh cinnamon, of cheery comfort. I’m sure it would bring searing warmth to cold days. It bought us an hour and a half of reigning peace, divorced from blaring car horns and yelling tourists. It brought us freedom from care.

Cinnamon-Banana bread with walnuts, raisins & butterscotch chips
adapted from a recipe via Everybody likes Sandwiches

Makes one medium loaf

Bananas – 3, very ripe.
Eggs – 2
Unbleached all-purpose flour – 1 ½ cups
Agave Nectar – 3/4 cup
Baking Soda – 1 tsp
Cinnamon – 2 tsp, ground
Vanilla extract – 1 tsp
Butterscotch chips – 1/2 cup
Walnuts – 1/2 cup, broken into pieces
Raisins – 1/2 cup
About a 1/4 tsp of sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon for sprinkling over

– Preheat your oven to 375°F and lightly butter a loaf pan.
– Mash the bananas well. Add eggs and stir in briskly to combine with the mashed banana.
– Add flour, agave nectar, baking soda, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir well to combine.
– Fold in the butterscotch chips, walnut pieces and most of the raisins, reserving a few
– Pour the mixture into the prepped loaf pan.
– Top with an even sprinkling of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the saved raisins.
– Place in the oven and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Cook’s notes:
I love nuts in sweets, and bananas and walnuts are a match made in my dream paradise. In fact, this is what they would serve there on demand all day. I was curious about the recipe having no fat of any kind whatsoever but there was no cause for concern. The bread turned out rich and delicious. It has a dense, soft crumb that breaks apart with the slightest pressure and fills you with a warm and fuzzy feeling all over. The warming tones of the cinnamon weave themselves through the other ingredients to create a richly spiced, out-of-this-world bread. I replaced the sugar with agave nectar and butterscotch chips for the chocolate the original recipe calls for. I didn’t miss the sugar at all and the butterscotch chips simply disappeared into the cake, leaving behind their caramelly hints. The whole thing comes together in ten or fifteen minutes and after that the oven does the work. Bake this on a weary day and you will feel your spirits rise with the bread. It gave us our Independence Day.

Fruit & Nut Bread Pudding with a jammy glaze

It is one of the strange realities of life. When we’re young, we can’t wait to grow up. And then the older we get, the younger we want to be. There is apparently, that subtle tipping of the scales when we turn thirty. Not that I hate being my age right now, but I believe eighteen was my ideal year. I would have been quite happy being that for the rest of my life. Not older, not younger. My Goldilocks version of just right. I didn’t really have a crisis of any kind at thirty. I faced it like I face any other birthday. Just another day. Friends tell me that’s just ridiculous, how can I not have freaked out?? I don’t know but I’m thankful, also a bit worried. Maybe the freaking bit just skipped thirty and is lurking about, waiting for me at my fortieth check post.

My husband doesn’t seem to care about age at all. The only time I can tell he misses his childhood is when I hear him tell me about it in that “wasn’t that just the best story you ever heard” fashion. I think he looks for it in his own way. For the longest time, he only cooked what he ate back home as a kid. I’m all for nostalgia but I had to stop his culinary visits. There is only so many times that I can eat rajma (indian beans) and rice. And when they started popping up again and again and again and (!!!), it was time to blow the whistle, which I did….only to have him start to cook his second-favourite dish repeatedly. It was touch-and-go whether he’d evolve into an all-rounder there for a while, but the ingredients he saw everywhere in California got to him, and he started experimenting with new stuff. Nevertheless, he still loves to visit his childhood through his food.

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Nigella Lawson’s Maragarita Ice-cream

It seems as an architect entirely too much of my time is spent wrestling with printers. And it seems in my young life I’ve had to deal with all kinds, inkjet, laserjet and my perennial favourite, the large-format plotter. Ever tried printing a drawing on a dot-matrix printer? I’ve had the dubious honour of having done that as well. Do you know what happens to your eyes when you try to read a drawing by a dot-matrix printer that has developed shades of Jackson Pollock?? I scrubbed the floor furiously for a while before the truth dawned on me.

Yesterday I dealt with a super-quirky laser printer that was having cold issues. “Printer warming up”, the little 5″ monitor dolefully proclaimed. Sorely berating its need to cool down every five minutes, there I stood, while precious moments leaked away from life while it stubbornly refused to warm up. I rained invective upon it, pushed the power button Monk-like several times to no avail. There was just no sign of life. I complained to the print tech and gave the machine a once-over. He was sanguine at first but when significant time had elapsed, he became concerned too. As we both stood there glaring at the machine, there was a hacking sound, then a sudden whirr and after a profusion of Artoo-Detooesque beeps, the printer spat out a lime green piece of paper that would do saturation conferences proud. But not me. Because it wasn’t what I’d sent to the printer.

The sudden appearance of this virtual remnant of someone else’s prints produced several emotions. The print tech was relieved and happy to see the printer working. I was annoyed in a way only someone dealing with recalcitrant technology can be and stared morosely at that green piece of paper. And just like that, in seconds, I was thinking of ice cream (See, that feeling you had that Cheeky Chilli had surreptitiously become a tech blog was completely unfounded). The mind forms strange connections. But let me tell you, frustrations literally melt way when thoughts turn to ice cream.

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Frozen Orange Margarita

I drink rarely. Let me tell you why.
Fact one:
Tastewise, alcohol doesn’t work for me. When it comes to wine, I like two, maybe three wine varieties and they’re all sweet. I have been told that the taste isn’t the point of the alcohol, but it is for me. I have also been told that the fact that someone like me lives so close to Napa and Sonoma is a terrible waste, but that’s what it is. I will never drink most hard liquor for the same reason.
Fact two:
Alcohol does not like me either. I will throw up with any beer – am allergic to hops. Yeah, that’s what a doctor with a panel test and clown specs that made it hard to believe him told me. One time I tried this Hungarian drink called Unicum at a friend’s place and by tried, I mean a two tablespoon shot. I broke out in hives the next day and couldn’t shake the reaction for six months. Which is why I was at that doctors’ with the panel test. Bourbon will give me shooting pains in my ears. Clown specs doctor is working on figuring that one out.
To sum it up, there are about three to four liqueurs, two to three wines and a couple of other alcoholic drinks that I can safely consume without my palate or my constitution paying for it. I stick to those and am very wary of branching out, but find it infinitely easier to avoid drinking altogether.

Today is Cinco de Mayo. There is a multitude of parties and everywhere there’s a flurry of chips, salsa and of course, the ubiquitous margarita. Never has there been a holiday that was about something else but has become a reason to try out the food and (especially) the drink of a nation. The tequila flows freely and tons of margaritas are made everywhere. And the kid in me who loves chemistry and pretty colours uses it as a reason to mix up a very adult margarita.

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Cherry-Orange Bread, adapted from Everyday Greens

It would be rare to see coffee in my hand. I reach for it only when I absolutely need a boost for an early morning or from a long and tiring day. It wasn’t always like this. While I never drank copious amounts, it used to be what I asked for often instead of tea. But either the beans or the processing here is different from India. And whatever the change is, it leaves me with a bitter taste, both literally and figuratively. The smell of some coffee beans brewing early in the morning can make me nauseous. I’m sorely disappointed that I can’t enjoy any and all varieties. I read somewhere that the palette changes every seven years. I do hope mine learns to like all coffee. Meanwhile I’ll stick to the tried and tested. I get my coffee from a jar bought in the Indian store.

Working where I do brings with it, among other good things, every other Friday off. Though most of my weekends these past months have involved wrestling with books filled with cost estimation, grades of soil, Modernism and the like, I’m nevertheless still thankful for these alternating long weekends. I wake up early in the morning, grab the requisite cup of coffee to help keep my eyes open and jog my brain, and hit the books with the fervent hope that they won’t hit back too hard. It’s difficult to put up much of a fight when I’m just about barely awake.

Today, the caffeine carried me through some part of the morning.Then I realized methods of project delivery were starting to leak out of my head. My early morning meant that I was hungry earlier than usual as well. Luckily, there was still some orange bread left over. While I would normally never advocate this for a meal; indeed, it’s original intention had been for an afternoon snack, I was glad to have it at hand. It meant I didn’t have to get up and futz around the stove, racking my already hurting brain about what to cook.

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