Product Review: Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit

Baking with the bub has always been a dream of mine. Ever since I became a mommy – even before that I think – I would dream of, one day, standing alongside the bub in our kitchen, measuring out ingredients, mixing them up, placing a cake or cookies in the oven, letting her lick the last of the batter from the mixing bowl, waiting for the oven timer to go off, and laughing at the look of awe on her face on watching the finished product get out of the oven.. all of this and more. You get the drift, right?

I never actually attempted anything like this, though, till very recently, when I won a Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies Baking Kit on an Instagram photo contest.

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The Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies baking kit that I received!

About Bake Me India

Bake Me India is a New Delhi-based business venture that offers kid-friendly baking kits – brownies, cupcakes, cookies, cake pops and the like. The kits contain all the dry ingredients that would be required, as well as handy equipment such as a tray, rolling pin, piping bag, butter paper, and even a wee apron and chef’s cap! The kits also come equipped with cards that outline in detail the steps in the baking proceedure.

Through these kits, Bake Me India aims to promote fun family baking times, especially by encouraging parents to bake alongside their kids. These kits are simple enough to be used by even very young kids (under adult supervision, of course!), and the parents need not be expert bakers themselves to use them. The use of good-quality ingredients and equipment is assured.

The kits (available in both ‘with egg’ and ‘egg-free’ versions) make for wonderful DIY gifts. You could opt to buy them individually or on a subscription basis, for as many months at a time as you desire. Prices range between INR 499 and INR 1699 per box, depending upon the nature of the product within. Home delivery across India is free, as of now.

Our experience with the Bake Me India Vanilla Shortbread Cookies kit

~ The kit I received included cookie dough, chocolate chunks, vanilla essence, powdered sugar, colourful sprinkles, instruction cards, cookie cutters, a little apron and chef’s hat, a tray and rolling pin, as well as butter paper. I loved how every possible dry ingredient and little tool that we might need for the baking process had been taken care of. I didn’t need to go looking for much.

~ The kit could, really, have done without the sprinkles and the apron and chef’s hat, but I loved that these things were thought of and included. Little stuff like these are just what kids love, right? The bub loved the multi-coloured sprinkles and donned the chef’s hat and apron as soon as they were out of the box!

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What was inside my Bake Me India kit! Don’t miss the little apron and chef’s hat in there!

~ I loved the detailed instructions on the cards, which told me every single we needed to do, to bake the cookies. There were explanatory pictures as well. The instructions were simple and clear enough for even a child to follow. Thanks to them, the baking process was a breeze.

~ The cards clearly stated the other ingredients and tools I would need to make the cookies, apart from the stuff already included in the kit – just some butter and an oven, in my case.

~ I loved how all the ingredients were packed really well, in Ziploc pouches.

~ The quality of ingredients and equipment provided was really good, and I loved that about Bake Me India. There was nothing sub-standard about the kit.

~ The bub and I loved, loved, loved baking the cookies together, though she mostly just watched, excitedly. It was messy, it was chaotic (with the bub wanting to put everything into the mixing bowl at once!), but it was so much fun! The husband was pressed into action as official photographer for the ceremony, and, all put together, it was just the break we needed, perfect family bonding time. And, as always, it was magical to watch dough go into the oven and come out all transformed into beautiful cookies!

~ All the ingredients (flour, powdered sugar, chocolate, sprinkles and vanilla essence) had already been measured out carefully, and included in just the right quantities that would be needed for the recipe. I didn’t have to do any measuring out at all, and could concentrate on just the fun part of the baking process!

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The finished product – the scrumptious vanilla shortbread cookies!

~ We chose to do away with the cookie cutters and shape the cookies with our hands, as rustic as it gets. I am so glad we did that – sensory play and all that!

~ The cookies turned out absolutely scrumptious and were gone within a day of the making!

~ I still have the rolling pin, cookie cutters, apron, chef’s hat and tray in the kitchen. I love the fact that I can get them out and use them again, whenever the bub and I fancy a bit of baking. I can clearly see this becoming a habit!

~ At INR 1499, I think the price of this kit is on the higher side. That said, I’m not sure how much it would cost me if I were to put together all the stuff that was part of the kit – the dry ingredients and reusable kitchen equipment included.

~ I didn’t spot a ‘best before’ date on the kit. Ideally, it should be included.

In conclusion…

I think the concept of the Bake Me India baking kits is absolutely lovely. The kits, albeit priced a tad high, make for a fun baking experience with your family, creating loads of fond memories in the process. They are great rainy-day DIY activities, and lovely gifts as well. This is, surely, something I would encourage you to pick up, for yourself and for your loved ones.

Find Bake Me India online: Website| Facebook| Twitter| Instagram

I received the product free of cost, because I won it in a photo contest. I was requested to do a review on my blog, and I obliged. The views expressed herein are entirely honest and completely my own, not influenced by anyone or anything.

The Husband’s Birthday Lunch At Farzi Cafe: An Underwhelming Affair

Farzi Cafe had always been on my list of eateries to visit in Bangalore, thanks to a number of blog posts I have read praising the place. I was in awe of the very innovative ways in which the cafe presents its food. So, it was Farzi Cafe in UB City that we chose to celebrate the husband’s birthday recently, and headed to for lunch. True to the reviews that we had read, the cafe did dish up food in very different ways, but we, sadly, ended up underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Ambience and decor

Located in the posh UB City, Farzi Cafe has an ambience that I would call ‘buzzing’. The eatery was teeming with people when we visited, and most of the ample seating area was occupied. Thankfully, though, we didn’t have to wait for long for a table to open up.

The seating was quite uncomfortable, we felt, a fact that has been pointed out in several Zomato reviews. The place tends to get quite noisy too (something we noted during our lunch, and on several past visits to UB City), so it is definitely not somewhere you visit if you want to have an uninterrupted conversation.

Cuisine

Farzi Cafe has a varied and extensive menu, including Indian as well as fusion dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. The eatery is known for its off-beat take on popular foods as well as innovative presentation styles.

The food and drinks

First up, we ordered the Mac N Cheese, served not the usual way, but in the form of deep-fried balls. The taste was strictly okay.

The Orange OK, an orange-based mocktail, that we ordered was just average too.

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Left: Orange OK, Centre: Mac N Cheese; Right: The complimentary Mishti Doi Shots

The Vada Paav we ordered next – paav inside the vada, and vada outside the paav, deep-fried – was presented beautifully, but, again, we found it just okay taste-wise.

For main course, we ordered their English Paav Bhaji, paav bhaji made with ‘English’ vegetables and served with foccaccia instead of the paav that usually comes with it. Presentation-wise, it was terrific, and the taste was definitely not bad, but we didn’t find it really out of the ordinary. I typically use all sorts of veggies to make paav bhaji at home, and this was the same.

We were offered a complimentary tamarind palate cleanser in between the two courses, with great fanfare, the sticks plucked out of a large white ceramic tree. It was okay, and I’m not complaining about that either.

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Left: Vada Paav, Centre: The tamarind palate cleanser offered complimentary in between courses; Right: English paav bhaji

The Rasmalai Tres Leches Cake that we ordered next was good. The presentation was good, and the taste was good, too.

We were given some complimentary mishti doi shots, which we loved. The paan (cotton candy shells filled with dehydrated paan mix) was good, too.

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Left: Rasmalai Tres Leches cake; Centre: The complimentary paan; Right: The typewriter in which our bill was presented to us!

Service

We found the service to be okay – the staff was polite and courteous, but they took ages to bring each dish to the table. It wasn’t really a problem, because we did want to have a leisurely meal.

Prices

We felt the food to be quite expensive here – like everything else in UB City is. We paid INR 2500 for this meal.

In hindsight…

We felt more than a bit underwhelmed by this birthday lunch at Farzi Cafe, a fact that is as sad as it gets. Overall, I guess, we had built up too much of expectation thanks to all those rave blog reviews, and those didn’t match up to the reality. Maybe, we are purists who don’t like their food to be tampered with too much. Maybe, we just didn’t choose the right dishes. Maybe, it just wasn’t our day – we kept feeling like the lunch we had had here wasn’t a hearty affair. Maybe, this is the sort of place where presentation is key, and that isn’t always the lookout for us.

I’m confused about whether I should give this place another go or not.

Proso Millet Sweet Pongal| Millet Sakkarai Pongal

This festive season, let’s offer something healthier to the Gods and to our bodies, shall we? How about some millet sweet pongal?

This sweet pongal contains absolutely no rice, which has been substituted with proso millet. You can even use a mix of different types of millet, really. The pongal also uses jaggery and not sugar, which is commonly used in festival sweetmeats. It tastes absolutely delish, just like the regular sweet pongal, but a much healthier alternative. The hint of edible camphor that is added to it takes the fragrance and taste of the pongal to new heights. What’s more, this dish is a breeze to prepare too!

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Now, let’s check out how to make this millet sweet pongal, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 6):

  1. 1 cup proso millet
  2. 1/2 cup moong daal
  3. 3 cups powdered jaggery
  4. 2 cups milk (boiled and cooled)
  5. 2 pinches of edible camphor
  6. 2 pinches of cardamom (elaichi) powder
  7. 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons ghee
  8. 5-6 unsalted cashewnuts
  9. 5-6 unsalted almonds
  10. 5-6 pieces of unsalted pistachios
  11. 2 tablespoons raisins

Method:

  1. Wash the proso millet in running water a couple of times, draining out the excess water every time. Make sure all the impurities are washed out.
  2. Take the washed and drained proso millet in a large vessel, and add in enough water to completely cover it. Let the millets soak for 2 hours.
  3. After 2 hours, drain out all the excess water from the soaked millets.
  4. Mix the moong daal and the soaked millets together, and add in the 2 cups of milk + 2-1/2 cups of water. Pressure cook this for 7-8 whistles. Let the pressure release entirely.
  5. Once the pressure has completely gone down, open the cooker and remove the container with the cooked millets and moong daal. Now, we will set about making the jaggery syrup for the pongal.
  6. Pour 2 cups of water in a heavy-bottomed pan, and add in the 3 cups of powdered jaggery. Set on high flame. Cook till the jaggery has entirely dissolved in the water.
  7. When the jaggery has completely dissolved, add in the cooked millets and moong daal to the pan. Turn the flame down to medium.
  8. Add in 1 tablespoon of ghee.
  9. Keep cooking on medium flame for 5-7 minutes, stirring intermittently, or till the mixture starts thickening.
  10. Roughly chop the almonds, pistachios and cashewnuts. Keep aside.
  11. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of ghee in another pan. Add in the raisins and chopped almonds, pistachios and cashewnuts. Let them stay in for a minute. Add the fried nuts, raisins and ghee to the pongal in the pan.
  12. Add in the edible camphor and cardamom powder to the pongal too.
  13. Let the pongal cook on low-medium flame, for about 2 minutes more, stirring intermittently. Switch off the gas when the pongal is considerably thick, but still quite runny. It will thicken further on cooling.
  14. Serve the pongal warm, or at room temperature.

Notes:

  1. You could dry roast the moong daal before making the pongal. This gives the pongal a nice fragrance. I skipped this step.
  2. Don’t miss out on soaking the millets for a period of at least 2 hours. This ensures that the pongal turns out soft and well cooked, rather than grainy.
  3. The quantity of jaggery powder that you will need depends upon its quality and level of sweetness. We commonly use twice the jaggery powder as the quantity of moong daal + millet. Here, I have used 3 cups of jaggery powder for 1.5 cups of moong daal + millet (1 cup millet + 1/2 cup moong daal).
  4. Feel free to increase the quantity of ghee you use in the pongal. I know some households who love their pongal dripping with ghee. We are comfortable with just about 3 tablespoons in our sweet pongal.
  5. Do ensure that the pistachios, raisins, cashewnuts and almonds do not burn while frying them.
  6. Increase or decrease the quantity of milk you use to cook the pongal, depending upon personal preferences. If you don’t want to use milk, you can skip it entirely and pressure cook the moong daal + millets in 4-1/2 cups of water instead.
  7. Do not cook the pongal too much after adding the edible camphor and cardamom powder in, as this might lead to a slight bitterness.
  8. Edible camphor is different from the camphor that is lit in temples and in poojas, as an offering to God. Please do not confuse between the two.
  9. Ensure that you do not add more than two pinches of edible camphor to the pongal. The smell can be quite overpowering, and overdoing it can cause the pongal to acquire a slight bitterness as well. If you don’t have edible camphor, it is okay to skip it entirely.
  10. I have used proso millet to make this sweet pongal, in place of rice. You can even use a mix of millets – like barnyard millet, foxtail millet, little millet, kodo millet – for the same.

Do try out this millet sweet pongal too. I hope you like it as much as we do!

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Check out the other millet-based recipes on my blog!

It’s Falooda Time At #SwensensIndia!

#swensensindia #faloodaevent

What do you think of when you think of falooda?

I think of glasses filled with pink, pink, pink milk lined up on a street-side cart, vermicelli and chia seeds swirling around in it. I think of people grabbing these glasses with sweaty hands. I think of them gulping all of it down in one go, an attempt to sate their parched throats on a hot summer’s day as well as to placate rumbling tummies with the cool, sweet, rose-laden drink.

When I encountered the falooda at Swensens, at a recent event for food bloggers, it both matched and did not match the picture in my head. The event aimed to familiarise us with the latest introduction on the Swensens (India) menu – the falooda – or, rather, the chain’s version of it. We also met Director – Swensens (India), Mr. Pinaki Mukherjee, who talked to us about the salient features of this  falooda.

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Left: Mr. Mukherjee talking to the food bloggers about the Swensens falooda; Right: The three versions of the Swensens falooda (small, medium and large) that are currently available

The Swensens version of this dessert is classy and beautiful, all jazzed up, as against the street-side version. It is made with quality ingredients, all the little things that have always comprised the falooda. It is just as cool and refreshing, too. The rose and the vermicelli are there, but no chia seeds or milk. I would say it is Swensens’ attempt to recreate the falooda, without deviating entirely from the way the drink originally tastes.

At the event, we were shown how the Swensens falooda is made – layer by layer by layer. Each layer is built to give a different taste, a different feeling, to the eater. We watched in wonder as waffles (crushed and whole), rose syrup, saffron syrup, saffron-flavoured ice cream, broken cashewnuts, saffron-flavoured vermicelli, rose petals and the signature Swensens cherry all went into the making of the falooda.

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Left: The Swensens falooda, standing tall and pretty; Centre and Right: The team demonstrating the various steps in the making of the Swensens falooda

Mr. Mukherjee told us of how each ingredient used in the falooda is sourced with great care and caution, to ensure good quality and consistent taste. The Maraschino cherries that are a part of all Swensens ice creams come from a farm in the US of A – apparently, the entire crop of the farm is booked by Swensens in advance, every year. Similarly, the roses and saffron (for the rose and saffron syrups used in the falooda) comes from select fields in India. Also, the vermicelli used herein is cooked fresh every morning, infused with saffron, unlike the plain vermicelli commonly found in falooda elsewhere.

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Isn’t she pretty?!

I’m not a big fan of falooda, I admit. I never have been. This version of the falooda did win me over, though. I liked the way it tasted, each layer contributing towards the delectable taste of the whole. I love the fact that Swensens offers the falooda in small, medium and large sizes, so patrons can choose the exact quantity they would like to have. The large size is like a complete meal in itself!

This is definitely one dessert that I would love to have again, if I can look past the Sticky Chewy Chocolate Fantasy that grabs my fancy every single time I enter Swensens!

Why don’t you go ahead and try out this pretty and delicious dessert, too?

  • Where?: At all Swensens outlets
  • When?: Limited edition for about 3 months, ongoing now
  • Price?: INR 99 for the small (Happy Falooda), INR 149 for the medium (Carnival Falooda), and INR 229 for the large (Crispy Crunchy Falooda)

I was invited to sample the product, and to share my feedback about the same. The views expressed herein are entirely honest and my own, not influenced by anything or anyone.

Milk Pulao| How To Make Milk & Vegetable Rice

A while ago, Amma told me about an interesting recipe that she had seen on a cooking show on television – a recipe for a simple rice cooked entirely in milk. The show’s host had said that the rice would be surprisingly flavourful in spite of having just a few ingredients in it. ‘It looked so good!’, Amma told me. ‘I am pretty sure you’ll like it; you must try it out,’ she quipped. And so I did, and loved it to bits, exactly the way Amma had known I would. Ammas are so good at this sort of thing, no? 🙂

I went ahead and made a few changes of my own to the original recipe. I cooked the rice in a mix of milk and water as the original recipe suggested (not coconut milk, but plain milk, mind you!). I also added in a few veggies, some fried onions, raisins and nuts. I put in a few slit green chillies, in addition to the whole spices that the original recipe calls for. In my humble opinion, I think this version is so much more colourful, healthier and tastier, making for a fuller, more wholesome meal.

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Milk pulao or milk & vegetable rice

For the life of her, Amma cannot remember which show this recipe was shown on, or which TV channel aired it, but it has, sort of, become a regular fixture on our dining table. I have come to associate this dish – I call it Milk Pulao or Milk & Vegetable Rice – with celebrations. This is the dish I turn to on festive occasions, on festival days when I want to make something special, without it being too complicated. It helps that this pulao is so very easy to make, and that the family loves it just as much as I do.  So, for this week’s Foodie Monday Blog Hop – the theme being ‘Festive Recipes’ – it is only natural that I present to you this latest festive dish crush of our family.

Foodie Monday Blog Hop

Now, let’s check out the proceedure for making my version of the milk pulao, shall we?

Ingredients (serves 3-4):

  • 1 cup rice (I use Sona Masoori rice)
  • 1-1/2 cup milk (boiled and cooled)
  • 1-1/2 cup water
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon oil + more for frying the dry fruits and onions
  • 4 green chillies or to taste, slit length-wise
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, peeled and chopped into batons
  • 1 small capsicum, chopped into medium-sized pieces
  • 7-8 beans, strings removed and chopped into medium-sized pieces
  • A handful of green peas
  • 1 large onion, chopped length-wise
  • About 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 6-7 whole almonds
  • 6-7 kernels of walnuts
  • 6-7 whole cashewnuts
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 4-5 cloves
  • A 1-inch piece of cinnamon
  • 4-5 pieces of cardamom (elaichi)

Method:

  1. Wash the rice under running water a couple of times. Place in a colander, and drain out all the excess water.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pressure cooker bottom. Add in the cinnamon, bay leaves, cloves and cardamom. Let them stay in for a second or two.
  3. Now, add in the chopped carrots, beans and green peas, along with the washed and drained rice.
  4. Add in 1-1/2 cups of water and 1-1/2 cups of milk, along with the slit green chillies, sugar and salt to taste. Mix well.
  5. Close the cooker, and put the weight on. Pressure cook on high flame for 3 whistles. Let the pressure release naturally.
  6. In the meantime, fry the onions, raisins and nuts and keep them ready. For this, take oil for frying in a thick-bottomed pan,  and set it on a high flame. When the oil reaches smoking point, turn the flame down to medium. Drop in the cashewnuts, and fry till they become slightly brown, and remove onto a plate. Now, fry the almonds till they become darker in colour, and remove onto the plate. Fry the walnuts till they turn slightly darker, and transfer to the plate. Fry the raisins till they plump up, and then remove onto the plate. Fry the onions till they caramelise and turn dark, and transfer onto the plate too. Take care to ensure that none of these ingredients get burnt.
  7. Once the pressure has completely gone down, mix in the fried onions, raisins, walnuts, almonds and cashewnuts into the rice, gently.
  8. Serve hot. This pulao doesn’t really need an accompaniment.

Notes:

  1. If you don’t like the idea of adding whole cashewnuts, walnut kernels and almonds to the pulao, you can chop them into slivers after frying.
  2. I think veggies like carrot, peas and beans go really well with this dish. That said, do feel free to add other veggies too.
  3. I use about 3-1/2 cups of water to cook 1 cup of rice, normally. For pulao and other rice-based dishes, I reduce the quantity of water slightly. To make this pulao, I have used 3 cups of liquid in total (1-1/2 cups of milk + 1-1/2 cups of water) for 1 cup of rice + a few veggies.
  4. Increase or decrease the quantity of milk and/or water as per personal taste preferences and depending on how grainy you want the pulao to be.
  5. You could even mix in some finely chopped coriander, once the milk and vegetable rice is cooked and ready.
  6. You could use basmati rice in place of Sona Masoori rice as well.
  7. This pulao turns out fragrant and mildly spiced. Increase the quantity of green chillies if you want to up the heat a bit.
  8. Skip the sugar entirely, if you so desire.

You like? I hope you will try out this milk pulao too, and that you will like it as much as we did!