Friday, September 7, 2012

Andaaz apna apna

You know I was fairly convinced that I'd never take to cooking. It's the same reason I don't draw or paint. My sister took all the artistic brilliance that was supposed to be distributed across the family, leaving Isha and me painting lotuses with different coloured petals and so on (true story). My mum is a fantastic cook. Not in the nostalgia induced, yaad-hai-ma-kaisi-aloo-gobhi-
banaati-thi way but in a could-have-been-a-pro sort of genius. So we never cooked. None of us. Mum was always sweating it out in the kitchen, preparing delicacies whose complexity defies cookbooks.

Also, someone has to take care of the eating side and at that, I am fabulous.

Since I moved out of home when I was 17, one had to polish one's cooking chops, ha, but I got by with a bit of daal and rice and that old faithful, the potato. Occasional bouts of baking and so on neither produced memorable results, nor were they repeated.

Even after I had kids, I never bothered too much with culinary delights, focussing my energies instead on fighting battles with cooks. Old readers would remember my struggles with the merry widow, Kalpana.

Things have changed of late. On a day when we had exhausted all possible entertainment options, I asked Adi if he would like to bake some cookies with me. His enthusiasm caught me by surprise. Let's just say it was at par for his love for the PS3. He measured out the baking powder and he sieved the flour. He melted the butter and he preheated the oven. Then he found the chocolate chips and spent the rest of his time eating them. But that's a tale for another day.

The cookies turned out pretty much fantastic and now this household boasts of two enthusiastic bakers. We are a team and it's a given that I don't bake without him. Also, the press that beginner's luck has received seems to be true because we have not really had a disaster so far. We've managed even macaroons which are considered to be pretty tough in the baker's world, I am told. In fact, we were so encouraged by the response to our pistachio macaroons that we even thought we'd bake bread. And tadah, even that turned out very well, displacing the Britannia loaf quite comfortably.

What could explain this? My crush on Jamie Oliver? Repeated viewings of Masterchef? All those wonderful cookbooks that we have collected for no evident reason over the years?

Actually, the thing is - we are pretty scientific and geeky about the whole thing. I mean, cooking may be an art but that part is completely lost on us. We are fanatical about our mise-en-place (yeah, totally talking the talk), we measure everything out to the gram, our conversion charts are stuck on to fridge (mental math is not very appealing when the oven is on fire) and ingredients are all checked for expiry dates and such like. If recipes have to be halved, then 75 gms needs to be brought down to 37.5. We take recipes only from the tried and tested top chefs and once it's brought in, there is no dodging of detail. Butter - softened/cold cut into cubes/melted? Sugar - Icing/Castor/Demerara/Light Brown? Flour - Self-raising/Italian 00/Plain? Basically we are removing any element of risk or doubt that there might exist. In other words, killing off the last bit of joy and making it all about the results which as I did mention earlier, are pretty much superb.

This renders us very funny to our family. Committed and experienced cooks are all about andaaz, you see. Try asking my mum or M's mum about any recipe and they always bring up swaad anusaar as the go-to answer. Namak kitna? Swaad anusaar. Mirch kitni? Swaad anusaar. I don't know how but these amazing cooks got by just fine without kitchen scales to aid every move (the horror!). Well, we are different. Plus, all that chocolate chip eating has sort of dulled the palate, throwing the andaaz totally off-balance.

In this kitchen, it's all about the science. And the eating. In fact, we are going to try the pavlova next. Now, what should be the exact temperature of those egg-whites?
What two five year old boys can create. No more raucous playdates!

They tasted pretty yum too, when one got past the rather dizzying array of colours.

Muffins lead to muffin-tops, you say? Well, don't.

Oh, that yellow butter dish...anyway, so those are jam-filled muffins. Yo mama domestic goddess.

I did mention a crush on Jamie Oliver, aye? I am all 'where are me condiments, me chopping board, oven on full whack' these days...

Chocolate ganache with palmiers, that. Seriously decadent. Will set diet back by five thousand years. But worth it. Also, behold me rustic wooden chopping board on which I regularly serve things these days. The crush of a good man.

Fruit salad thingie made superlative with a pomegranate, mint, lime and sugar dressing. Bottle courtesy my sweetest friend and the original baking goddess Prachi of purplehomes.

More food porn pictures.

Pre-made Cosmopolitan awaiting its moment in the sun. When you can't please them with food, get them dead drunk.

The ubiquitous chocolate chip cookies that have been pronounced better than the crinkles from American Express bakery. I consider that a serious compliment.

In case you missed it.


Anonymous said...

Impressive Parul looks late I see a lot of people getting into baking. Though I enjoy cooking in general, I have not tried baking much. Maybe I should. And here in the US , all baking related things are available so easily. Keep it up..


Aanchal said...

Oooh! How I agree! Being all obsessed and geeky about quantities and ingredients does show results way more anything I've ever cooked on my own. Of course, these on-my-own trials are only limited to cooking. Not baking. Never ever. I could screw that up way more than subzi in a kadhaai. Just last weekend, I managed (don't ask how) to almost set fire to the kitchen. The ceiling has a very pretty (not according to our landlord) smoke pattern now.
But-but! Precise measurements and following recipes to the last milli-ounce has produced results that make me want to pinch myself enough to create bruises. The mater's shocked face when she's around, is quite worth the bruises though. :-P

Roli Bhushan-Malhotra said...

Wow! Pictures are amazing! Loved the part about andaaz being dulled by eating chocolate chips :D do you home deliver some requests?

Anonymous said...

I hate people who can write, bake, manage household staff, travel to exotic locations, meet 'em rockstars....ummm did I miss anything:-)


Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

Go woman!! All hail the new baking goddess on the block! That palmier looked to die for :-) Me envious!

Have always wanted to bake and it's precisely because of all the measurements and maths that I suck at it :-(

Am totally a swad anusaar kinda cook. Sigh...goodbye, perfect chocolate baked cookies!!

Vini said...

I once posted about this on my blog - on the science of making chapattis - much as my Mom disagreed and said -"Really, you wrote so much over a chapatti? They are just rotis!"

Decadent pictures those - The cookies must be exactly what childhood dreams are made of. I purchase my palmiers at Frontier bakery in Delhi and yours appear to best those.

Parul said...

Bhavani...Thank you so much.

Aanchal...Try baking. It really respects cooks with a flair for measuring right!

Roli...Of course! In fact, we are open with cupcakes and coffee all day!

Deepa...Oh you don't know the half of it!

M4....That Palmier is store-bought!

Vini...Oh but the Palmier was store bought just like J Oliver suggested!