My baking’s got its groove back!

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Yellow butter layer cake with chocolate frosting; Recipe from The Kitchn

I don’t remember the first thing I tried to bake. I do, however, remember trying to bake one thing ten times over.

It was two years ago around Christmas and I had decided, having just unwrapped a silicone cupcake tray and an OTG, that I should bake gingerbread cupcakes.

“Make the healthy version,” said my husband who tries very hard, and sometimes does succeed, in eating “healthy”. “Use recipes that call for whole wheat flour and oil instead of butter and less sugar and fruit substitutes…”

And so I set out to conquer gingerbread bakes, but every batch I baked failed miserably.

The first one was baked to the specifications dictated by my “healthy” husband – who, I realised, hasn’t read a single cake recipe in his life! I used whole wheat flour, which in Indian translates to the atta with which we make rotis. But it came out really dense and smelled funny.

The second time around, I gave in and use butter instead of olive oil, but no such luck. It was still dense and tasted strange.

So I decided, you know what? Let’s just use that damn all purpose flour these recipes keep harping on about – Indian translation being bleached and super refined Maida. The batch I made actually looked like it was supposed to! The cupcakes rose like in the photos, were light and fluffy, and would have looked good in the window of any patisserie or just my Instagram feed, same thing. But when I bit into them I found that the taste had gotten worse! Like ground ginger had made love to a bathroom disinfectant and this was their warm and funky offspring.

It took me a few more attempts and a visit from my friend Sue to finally realise that A) When it comes to baking, a good recipe is sacred. Follow it blindly like you would The Lord. Or James Blunt on Twitter (better sense of humour). B) The baking soda I had purchased from a reputed baking institute in Bangalore – you know who you are and you ain’t getting my business for that advanced bread baking class!! – was industrial strength. It now sits below my kitchen sink and is excellent at unclogging pipes. C) ‘Cups’ aren’t the teacups in which you drink caffeinated drinks and tea- and tablespoons aren’t the cutlery with which you scoop up daal-chawal when you don’t want to get your hands dirty. That bit was embarrassing to learn…

I gave up baking for a while after that. Maybe it wasn’t my ‘thing’. It required focus, discipline and commitment. Basically, I really didn’t think I wanted to put in all that effort and follow a recipe to the tee.

But of late, things have been changing for this lazy chef… er, sorry, Slow Cook. I’ve been baking more often and with more success. I guess it started when I deliciously messed up those French Breakfast Muffins. And things only got better from there!

I baked and I baked and I baked some more. I kept a low profile. I didn’t document them with photos from a 100 different angles, nor did I post a peep about them on social media. And you know what? It’s just been so much better than likes and hearts because something can look good in pictures, sure. But you know you’re on the right track when real-live people try it and love it so much that they can’t stop eating it.

I guess what I’m saying is… I’m back! And so is my mojo. Expect more Slow Cook and random food posts from now on. No no. I’m not going to do recipes — unless they’re originals. I will simply focus on doing what I really love doing — telling stories through the food I cook and eat.

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My food blog is about NOT cooking. That’s right!

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It’s strange to apologise for being irregular when I honestly don’t know whom I’m writing to here just yet. I guess I’ll just apologise to myself then, because I started this blog as an exercise to keep my thoughts, work and writing in one place and while I have kept my Portfolio updated, I haven’t dedicated too many words to the journal. I hope to change that starting this month.

Anyway, I’m really excited to have started a blog (not another one, Afsha!) for the Bangalore Mirror. It’s a food blog about not cooking. You read that right!!

It’s called The Slow Cook and here’s the first post from the series.

The Slow Cool: A taste of procrastination
We all know one couch potato, a person who would do anything, or rather nothing, to get off their ass while the television is still on.

If you’re on social media, you know numerous armchair activists, who share causes and petitions like candy at a birthday party and log off feeling extremely pleased for being a “part of the change you want to see”.

We’re all a bit of both of the above. Couch potato on weekends, armchair activists when the need arises.

But over the last two years, I’ve been feeling a new strain of procrastination grab hold of me. You see, I think I may be an excellent cook. It’s a gift really. I know the perfect technique to pouffe up profiteroles and I’ve got the method to grilling steak down pat. The only problem is, I’ve never really pouffed a profiterole or grilled a steak. In fact, I only purchased an oven three months ago and I’ve never had the courage to enter a butcher’s shop selling beef products.

But somehow, in my head, I’m convinced that I can do these things, and a whole lot more “to perfection”. Put me on a platform with 10 others and I’m confident that I’ll come up with a “cracker of a dish”.

But I think it’s time we’re honest with each other. I’m no master chef. I’m just a writer, a procrastinator by nature, who creates fictitious worlds on one hand and masters dishes in minute detail on the other. The problem: a lot of this happens inside my head.

I’ve only joined Bangalore Mirror two months ago and my colleagues already know this about me. I’ve been promising them gooey chocolate fudge cookies — a dish with less than 8 ingredients that takes 10 minutes to prep and 12 minutes to bake — since my first week. But every morning I wake up to pull up the recipe and gather the ingredients and instead, end up clicking on a related link that leads to another recipe and then another which I bookmark… for the weekend… in a folder titled “Sunday Brunch”.

I love to cook. Really I do. But I’d much rather do it inside my head than on a kitchen-top that needs cleaning or using dishes that need washing up after I’m done.

This isn’t to say that I don’t cook at all. I made a killer batch of coconut granola yesterday and there was that one time I baked cinnamon spiced apple cupcakes. They were appreciated but if you’re going to wait for an encore, it won’t happen. Not on demand anyway.

That’s why I’m calling myself The Slow Cook. There are delicious adventures to be had — inside the kitchen and outside. There are also amazing discoveries to be made. There will also be the occasional experiment though don’t count on it being too often. One thing’s for sure: There will be food and lots of it.

 

Here’s a link to the original post published in Bangalore Mirror on June 5.