Monday, 14 December 2020

Basque Burnt Cheesecake

So, the year that wouldn't get over and the year that just passed by is finally on its home stretch. It's also the time when we take stock of the year that was. Aided by year-end listicles, I've been thinking back at the year and all the time we spent in the kitchen. As the world outside locked down, that's where we all seemed to retreat to. And we cooked food that was in equal parts, essential and elaborate, nourishing and indulgent and of course, resourceful and comforting. 

And who can forget the baking. Even my defunct blog seemed to get more traffic than usual. Whilst it was the banana bread and the sourdough revolution that got all the headlines, for me, it was the Basque burnt cheesecake that seemed to pop up everywhere I turned online. Of course, at the time we were under a strict lockdown that necessitated rationing and frankly, with Summer raging outside there's no way I was even looking in the direction of the oven. 

So, the recipe was filed away and finally, given a shot this weekend. And I'm here to shout it from the rooftops that the hype for this recipe is completely justified. It's as if Chef Santiago Rivera heard all complaints about how fussy it is to make a baked cheesecake and came up with an alternative that simplifies the process, lets you make all the mistakes, burn the top and still results in this soft, creamy, light, baked cheesecake that will have you talking about it long after you've eaten it. I speak from experience.

I used the Bon Appetit recipe that most people seemed to refer to as a guide. It is all about mixing all the ingredients into a smooth mixture and then baking at a very high temperature. The high temperature is what makes the mixture poof up, burn the top and then when you take it out of the oven, it collapses and cracks. Now, if this had happened with a regular baked cheesecake recipe, you would have fretted but none of that out here. Out here, it is part of the cheesecake's rustic charm. The burnt top forms this crust like top in a cheesecake that has no crust. Under the crust is this creamy, baked filling that is surprisingly lighter than your regular baked cheesecake. Not all cloying or claggy and it does not need anything to pair it with. It is perfect just as it is. I'd recommend flavouring the mixture with a bit of vanilla extract and lemon zest. It helps the flavour profile tremendously. 

Since, it's just Mama and me at home, I made a small cheesecake which used the least amount of cream cheese required. It is a recipe that I found on Gayatri's blog, 'The Desserted Girl'. Since it was a small amount of batter, this is not as high as the other cheesecakes that you might see around. But, it was more than enough for the two of us and we may or may not have polished off the whole thing in a day! In our defence, its been a soggy few days out here and we were in a mood for something indulgent and yes, it is THAT good. 

Below, I have given recipe links and a few pointers that helped me with this bake. Choose the recipe that works with the size of the springform tin you have. The ingredients and process remains the same.  

It is so good that I advise you to interrupt whatever you are doing, even if its your Christmas baking and bake this cheesecake. Because this cheesecake is a fitting way to say goodbye to the year and all the negative juju it carried with it. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Brown Butter Financiers With Blackberries

If there's one season whose imagery speaks to me, it is that of Autumn. Think chunky sweaters, long walks on crunchy fallen leaves, that nip in the air, mugs of steaming hot chocolate, sitting curled up with a good book and a cosy blanket and loads and loads of baking! And all this is great and you can nod along with me in total agreement except for the small, tiny detail that we have no autumn in India! Yes, the hill states in the North might experience it but in my little corner of the world, all we get is a month of pleasant weather that we euphemistically call Winter. So, when November unexpectedly bought a nip in the morning air, much earlier than anticipated, I was all ready to play make-believe. All while conveniently ignoring that hazy smog that's quietly taking over our skylines!

My social media feed is full of baking recipes with apples and blackberries. And pumpkin too, but after all these years of blogging, I still haven't accepted the idea of pumpkin in my desserts. And apples have made an appearance quite a few times on this blog so blackberries it was to be with the help of some readymade blackberry preserve. 

Ever since I decided to revive my blog, I have been on the lookout for recipes that challenge and expand my existing baking repertoire. I think it was lack of challenge that caused me to stagnate and even kill the joy that I once experienced when I first experimented with baking. Over the past few months of lockdown, I have been particularly enamoured by the idea of working on learning French pastry and baking more keenly. Think puff pastry, financiers, madeleines, eclairs, caneles, croissants, get the picture. 

It all sounds so ambitious, so we begin small with financiers. Financiers are these small French tea cakes that taste of brown butter and almonds. They are usually baked in a rectangle moulds and the story goes that they were first made in a pastry shop near the Paris stock exchange. They were baked in rectangle moulds to resemble bars of gold because well, you know those greedy bankers and their love for all things over-the-top! 

They turned out quite easy to bake. I have written as detailed a recipe as I could and I urge you to read it once fully before you attempt to bake them. I've realised its the attention to small details and steps during the process that have a huge impact on the final result. Instead of my usual recipes measured in cups and spoons, I've given this one in gms because I believe the recipe demanded that level of exactness to guarantee the result I wanted.

What you get are these domed, springy to touch tea cakes that have a firm, brown- around-the-edges top that gives way to reveal a moist, tender, nutty crumb. I've used a blackberry preserve but use whatever catches your fancy, as long as it has a bit of a twang to cut through all the sweetness. And if you get your hands on some fresh blackberries or even raspberries, even better.

Warm out of the oven, I did find these financiers a tad too sweet for my palate. But, and here's my contrary opinion, let these financiers rest a bit, (don't crucify me for suggesting this) maybe even till the next day and they tasted not only less sweeter but the nuttiness was also more pronounced. These are rich ingredients and that's why the blackberry preserve helps to cut through the richness and infuse some fruity freshness. It also means that one tea cake is more than enough to go along with a cup of tea. 

Before, I sign off, I'd like to draw your attention to an e-cookbook, 'At Home : Favourite recipes from our kitchens'.  Chefs, writers, home cooks and bloggers from across the country have shared about fifty recipes from their kitchens. All proceeds (you can pay anything upwards of Rs.300) from this cookbook will go towards the work of the Nabhangan Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation that works with rural communities in Marathawada. (

They are looking to raise Rs. 3 lakhs which will be used to fund a new school building. At the time of writing this post, they had already collected Rs. 77 thousand that has been used for electrical fittings of the school building in Pandhari, Maharashtra. It is a beautiful, diverse curation of recipes with some stunning photography. Please do have a look to see whether you'd like to contribute towards this cause. 

Many congratulations Richa and Kasturika for such a commendable effort on this beauty of a cookbook! (

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

Dishoom's Nankhatai

Who could have had an inkling of what this year had in store for us?! Right at the onset of the year, I remember announcing that I wanted to start posting on my much ignored blog. And then before I knew it, I..well...we all found ourselves navigating a 'new normal' that none of us had prepared for and has proven to be more stubborn than any of us had reckoned. You would all understand when I say that the past few months of lockdown restrictions have been a roller coaster of contrasting emotions that has left us all, for lack of a more articulate word, fatigued.

In the past few months, patience is a virtue we've all had to cultivate especially as we witnessed the games our mind can conjure up with paranoia and insecurity. There have been lessons in fortitude and resourcefulness but an even greater lesson in empathy and an even more important one in privilege that have been learnt. 

I've found myself obsessing over micro details whilst looking on helplessly at the bigger macro world. I've been overwhelmed and humbled by the kindness and generosity of strangers and disappointed and even angered by the callousness of those I've known.  I've amazed myself with my resilience in facing upto certain situations but the time in isolation has also meant confronting and acknowledging each of the uncomfortable vulnerabilities in my life. And despite, being able to connect to any part of the world through virtual technology, never has the inability to cross the shortest of physical distances rendered me more helpless and frustrated. And suddenly you realise that while the days have been long, weeks and months have just gone by!

Lest you get me wrong, I am aware of all that I need to be grateful about. Most importantly, that I found myself at home with my mother and not stuck in limbo, on my own, somewhere out there in the world, in these uncertain times. It's been inexplicably heartening to have friends, many I haven't been in regular touch with, reach out and ask how I was doing. And the difficulties we've faced are those that nobody has been immune from. And yet, even as restrictions have eased and could that be light that we see at the end of the tunnel, I'll admit to feeling at times, uncertain and unmoored in a way that I haven't felt in a long time. Like I said patience is a virtue we've all had to cultivate!

And while the world was baking banana bread and experimenting with sourdough, these simple nankhatai were my little baking indulgence in the initial weeks of lockdown. Well, until my trusted hand mixer of more than two decades decided to give way. We can have a discussion another day on all our trusted appliances that decided that the lockdown was the perfect time to throw a tantrum!

These nankhatai are from my much treasured Dishoom cookbook The cookbook is a love letter to south Bombay, one much after my heart and deserves a separate appreciation post one day. For now, let me tell you about these nankhatai. Extremely simple to make and can be made even without a hand mixer. They worked well with the rationing that we had to contend with in the initial few weeks of the lockdown. They are made with staples that every Indian kitchen will have. I have another nankhatai recipe on the blog but this is a superior one with the addition of besan (chickpea flour). It improves the texture and makes it closer to the ones from the Irani bakeries. 

Not too sweet and crunchy enough to warrant a dip in a cup of chai, these nankhatai were a little indulgence during some very uncertain days and for that I will always remember them with gratitude! Give them a try yourself!

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