Strawberry fig pie

Because sometimes celebrations should be as easy as pie

Anand has always been my personal trendsetter, as far as our bakesperiments go. He’s been the brave one, taking wider, bigger strides and doing crazy things like not buying bread for almost two years, attempting and succeeding in perfecting meringue, making ladyfingers from scratch (to make authentic tiramisu, of course!), making his own ricotta at home (to make authentic cheese cake, of course!) and also trying his hand at a latticed pie. Somewhere in November, he made this fancy looking mulberry pie. And I have been hemming and hawing about giving a latticed pie a shot, ever since. Its hard not to want to try something once Anand has tried it, and given you his precise, expert comments, tips and tricks. More recently, when I saw PK’s strawberry pie and a few weeks later tried this strawberry and fig jam in Bombay. And I knew at once, what my first lattice experiment was going to be.

As usual I need one final heave and push, to send me into a frenzy when I am embarking on something like this. A reason that will make it worth the time and effort. Crossing a milestone of sorts, was reason enough.

What I used
9″ tart tin with a removable base

For the pastry crust (makes two 8″ crusts)
100g butter frozen and cut into cubes (I stuck a 100 gms Amul pack in the freezer, overnight and chopped into squares right before I used it. Also, I am definitely cutting this down a bit next time)
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons honey
Less than 1/4 cup ice cold water (start with less and add as needed)
1 teaspoon vinegar

For the strawberry and fig filling
1 1/2 cup chopped strawberries and figs (I used about 1/2 kg strawberries and 4 medium fresh figs)
1/8 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons honey (depending on how sweet your strawberries are. I didn’t want to add too much sugar, so I supplemented it with honey)
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour (atta)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (I think I will be skipping this next time around)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

How I made it

I first measured out the flour, honey and vinegar in a mixing bowl.DSC_0121Then I pulled the frozen butter out of the freezer, chopped it into half-inch squares and chucked it into the flour. I used a fork to cut it in, at first. When most of the butter was more or less broken down and the flour was at uneven coarse meal consistency, I pressed the butter between my finger tips just a bit. Anand says, it’s okay, in fact good, if there are large pieces of butter still visible.DSC_0122 DSC_0124Then I drizzled the ice cold water slowly into the mix, as needed and pressed it together (not knead) to make a disc of dough, which I then divide this into two, rolled them into balls, then discs again and wrapped them in clingfilm and stuck them into the fridge for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, I got the filling ready. I chopped up the figs and strawberries.DSC_0129 DSC_0131Chucked them into a bowl, along with the vanilla extract, Balsamic vinegar, flour and ground cinnamon (everything except the sugar), mixed well and put that in the fridge too.DSC_0145When the two hours were up, I took one of the dough discs out and rolled it out into disc, thin enough so it can line the base of the tart tin. I rolled it up on my belan and spread it across the tin, pressing it down with my fingers.DSC_0158I then used a fork to make semi-holes all over (not too many that the filling might leak) and stuck it back in the fridge. This, I did because it has gotten VERY hot in Goa and I could feel the dough melting away as I worked it. So I had to set the tin in the fridge twice in between, before it was fully done and ready to bake.DSC_0174I then mixed up the sugar into the filling and tossed it well.DSC_0143With the second disc of dough, I rolled out a large circle and cut strips for the lattice.DSC_0176Then I tipped the filling into the tart tin, and placed alternate strips across the pie, spacing them close enough so the liquid wouldn’t come oozing out when baked. I think a little closer would have been prettier, and better.DSC_0199I then used the remaining strips and wove them across in a lattice. I used this video as a reference.DSC_0204As you can see I wasn’t being very neat.DSC_0208I then removed the excess dough, crimped the edges, beat an egg, and used my paintbrush (anyone want to gift me a pastry brush?!) to paint the strips with the egg-wash.DSC_0229Then I covered the edges with foil, because Sensei Anand had also warned me that they tend to cook much faster than the rest.DSC_0233And then I stuck the pie back in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes, while I pre-heated the oven to 200 degrees C for 15 minutes.

Then, I stuck it in the oven, baking it at 200 degrees for 15 minutes and then lowerered the temperature to 175 degrees C for 30 minutes.

At this point the tops of my pie had still not browned, so I extended the time for 10 minutes more, and turned the top coil on for precisely two minutes at the end, so I got a light golden hue like I was aiming for.DSC_0241I then brought the pie out and set it to cool for 25 minutes before I dug in, because I couldn’t wait any longer. About 45-50 minutes of cooling would have done the pie some good, because the filling would have thickened a little bit and the crust would have crispened too. I de-tinned the pie, and I was extremely happy with the crust.DSC_0251I sliced it upDSC_0253Served it with ice-creamDSC_0255And stashed the rest away to savour over the weekDSC_0257This is not a pretty, fancy pie. It is chunky, with a gloopy, jammy, fruity filling that is bound to ooze out. So forget about being dainty. Get dirty, dig in and enjoy!

A few notes:

  • Using honey in the crust led to a softer, less firm base. I will be trying this a second time with less butter, and sugar instead of honey. I think this may help the pie hold shape a little better
  • The fruit was superbly jammy and molten and wonderfully natural. For a sweeter pie, increase the sugar/honey
  • Skip Balsamic vinegar, as Indian strawberries tend to be tart by default
  • The dough recipe Anand shared with me makes two 8″ discs, which was manageable, but a little tight for my 9″ tin. I will amend proportions when I have made this a second time and got the exact quantity of flour

Sugar-free banana-strawberry-chocolate smoothie

Because I discovered I have a hot-cold

So it turns out, that after three whole days of hot drinks, hot meals, avoiding everything cold and staying cooped up indoors, I was still not feeling as better as I expected. Frustrated, I took off to watch a movie. Partly to beat the heat (my house is an absolute furnace these days), and partly to just get some fresh air.

Three hours in an air-conditioned movie hall, one slightly cold coke and a bite of my friends ice-cream later, I came out feeling like I had a renewed lease of life. I could breathe again, my cough had settled down a bit and I felt energetic.

Could it be that the cold was actually a hot-cold, as opposed to the traditional cold-cold? I have always harboured this feeling that sometimes cold beats the cold. And once more, I felt I could be right. So to test the theory, I decided to bite the bullet and go the whole hog. This smoothie on day 1. Ice cream on day 2. And a giant apple-mango smoothie with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on day 3, at one of Goa’s best juice bars.

And today I woke up and breathed easy again.

What I used
1 small banana, sliced
5-6 strawberries, sliced
1 tablespoon drinking chocolate
1/2 cup fresh curd
1 tablespoon honey

How I made it

This is so ridiculously simple. Its sugar-free. And if its as blistering in your part of the world, as it is in mine, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be making this as you read it.

Slice fruit.DSC_0002Chuck it into the blender along with the drinking chocolate, honey and curd.DSC_0006Blend till creamy, and pour.DSC_0016Drink!DSC_0027

Orange blossom cake with fresh strawberries

Oops, I did it again!OSIf you follow me on Instagram, you probably already know that I did it again. I succumbed and went and bought some more strawberries. The sister is visiting, and I am always trying to bake up something fun when she is around. So far we made some whole wheat buns, cheese crackers, finished off the sorbet and coconut cake, and just when I was racking my brains about how to put her favourite flavour in cake, I had a brainwave.

You see, she is a citrus-obsessed freak. The smell of lemon zest and an extra squeeze of something lemony in anything is enough to make her weak in the knees. So I wanted to make her a simple but fresh and flavourful Orange Pound Cake. When I saw these strawberries, I decided to dice them and chuck them in to, and make a summery fruit cake of sorts. I also didn’t want to make it too rich and buttery, so I concocted this recipe with bits and pieces of inspiration from some of the other cakes I’ve baked.

I love beginning my mornings with baking and I was happy as a sunflower, patiently stirring my batter, chopping up macerated strawberries and folding them in. I poured the batter into the pan and stuck it in to bake. When there were just 12 minutes or so to go, we had a power cut. I thought it was the end of my cake, but I decided to be patient and not open the door. When the power returned about 20 minutes later, I re-baked it for about 15 minutes. Half way through the power went off again! This happened three times in all, and I imagined a sunken mess would await me when I opened the door, but I didn’t do that just yet. When the power came back, I continued to bake it and finally when the timer went off, I ran the toothpick test, and voila!DSC_0030It had cooked, was firm and smelt divine. It was every bit as fresh and orangey as I wanted it to be, and the aroma of morning OJ mixed with the tart-sweetness of strawberries filled my kitchen.Little specs of baked strawberries peeked through the sunshiney yellow cake and in a happy coincidence, I realised it was a rather apt cake for Valentines Day! I sent a quick picture off to the husband, asking if he wanted a piece to have after his lunch, and pat came his reply, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” So I’m not the only one who made the apparent connection!

And since Valentine’s Day has been a day of love-in-general rather than love-for-a-significant-other, for me, I’m glad I could make this for my sister. Because I have realised that I love her more than I love cake.

What I used
8″ square pan
1/4 cup olive oil
A little less than 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup orange juice + juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour (I used whole wheat)
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
Zest of one lime
1/4 cup fresh strawberries chopped into big chunks (I macerated them overnight in a teaspoon of sugar, with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/2 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar)

How I made it

I sort of figured out this recipe as I was making the cake, so I have tried to recollect appropriate measurements/proportions. But if you’re feeling sunshiney and full of love, be brave and make this today as is, and it should work out alright!

First, I preheated the oven at 170 degrees C for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I whisked together the sugar and orange juice. Since I was being lazy and used granulated sugar, this step helped dissolve it completely. If you use castor sugar it will be much quicker.DSC_0002Then I cracked an egg into the mixture and whisked that in too, followed by the vanilla extract and oil.DSC_0007

In a separate bowl, I measured out the flour, added the baking powder and lime zest to it and mixed well.DSC_0010DSC_0015I tipped the flour mixture into the OJ mixture and used my spatula to bring the batter together.DSC_0017Then I dropped in the strawberries.DSC_0019As an afterthought, I chopped them into smaller bits, and was later thankful for changing my mind. You see, the smaller the pieces, the quicker they cook through and make those wonderful intermittent jammy blobs in every bite of cake.DSC_0020I mixed it all up and poured it into a well greased cake tin, and baked it for about 25-30 minutes, until the toothpick came out clean.DSC_0023When it had cooled sufficiently and I couldn’t bear the intoxicating aroma any longer, I chopped it and shared it.DSC_0026Done!

The summery warmth of OJ makes it a wonderful breakfast or tea-time cake, especially fresh out of the oven. But even otherwise, the cake is light enough to be served as a sponge/pound cake. Fancify it for a loved one with some strawberry compote, or serve with vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce and it would make an excellent Valentine’s Day dessert!DSC_0031

Strawberry sorbet

Clearly, I still haven’t had enough of the strawberry madness

Warning: This post may not be hard on your eyes if you do not like the colour red. Proceed with caution as the text below features too many pictures of bright red strawberries. Altogether disproportionate to the level of complexity of the recipe. I blame the fruit. Entirely.

Its hard to turn my eyes away from the stacks of strawberry cartons that blind me at the market. They seem to be getting brighter, larger and more luscious as the weeks pass and I cannot resist it. I am constantly cooking up excuses to get a fresh batch. So even though I slunk into the market, ostensibly only to buy some dill the other day, somehow I came out at the other end with these.DSC_0016But seriously, how does one not get tempted by something this ridiculously fresh and pretty?DSC_0009If you know how, write to me please? I think we’ll have a lot to talk share and discuss.

But until then, let me just make the most of these gorgeous berries. Now down to 25 bucks a carton. I can’t deal with it.DSC_0017So I brought home some more. Chopped ’em up. Froze ’em up. Whizzed ’em up with sugar and yoghurt. And voila! I made sorbet you guys!

It is so unbelievably easy. SO darn simple it would be a crime not to make it. It’s probably too early to be this excited about a frozen, icy dessert, but I never really followed the rules in these parts, did I? There are strawberries-a-plenty, bright red and beaming, begging to be bought. Begging to be turned into dessert. And to me, that is reason enough.

So I made sorbet.

What I used
2 cartons of strawberries (just under 400 grams)
1/4 cup sugar (I used white because its all I have, but I think it would work really well with brown too)
1/4 cup fresh home made yoghurt/curd

How I made it

I washed and drained the strawberries well. And then halved the larger strawberries placed them in an airtight, freezer-proof box and froze them overnight. I left a few smaller ones whole, because they were oh so pretty.DSC_0025Then I tucked the box away into my freezer overnight. This morning (the next day) I took it out, set it out on my counter to thaw for 5 minutes or so I could open it up.DSC_0027-1Using a pestle, I lightly pounded the frozen strawberries so they would be easier to grind down.DSC_0029-1I chucked them into my mixie in batches, and ground them with the curd and and sugar till nearly pureed, but stopping before it was completely liquified. The puree must retain some chunks of ice and should be grainy.

DSC_0030-1Then I poured it back into the box, dropped in the whole strawberries and stuck the box back into the freezer for 3-4 hours.DSC_0033-1

DSC_0044-1 About 20 minutes before I was ready to eat it, I took the box out of the freezer and placed it in the fridge, so it would steadily thaw out a little without melting into a pool.

Then I scooped it out and enjoyed it. Semi-liquid, semi-icicleish, totally strawberry-rich, this sorbet totally turns the strawberries into tart-central, sweet and acidic all at once. DSC_0067Winter might not be gone yet, and even though we have a nip in the air, if you make this and enjoy a bowlful  after your afternoon meal, you’re sure to feel a breath of summery air! Because this sorbet is so packed with strawberry goodness your salivary glands will be forced to do a cartwheel. Three times over. And leave you thinking who’d have thought these petite, pretty blushing things could have done that?DSC_0024

Strawberry coconut cake

Somebody stop me, I’ve gone over the bend

I had a moment today. A moment in which I realised:
– I haven’t baked a cake in over three weeks
– I had a bunch of frozen strawberries I needed to use
– The South Indian in me had never baked with fresh coconut

It was a reckless moment, combined with the general feeling that there is no time to waste anymore. I have too many of them these days. Where time stands still and I imagine myself throwing together outrageous combinations of things, with total panache, dishing out these gloriously risen and golden-topped baked goodies. In my head of course. In reality, I am far from the baking diva my subconscious seems to think I am.

But this relentless recipe-spinning is becoming a problem. Because these thoughts catch me sometimes at the moment right before I drift off to sleep, so I have to spend the rest of the night suspended in a baking limbo, knowing fully well that I have just concocted something ridiculous, but never really knowing if it turned out well. Until I wake up and make it of course. Its what led to the making of these buns and these rolls.

Today I had that moment again. And I acted on it. In my mind it seemed perfectly logical to try and counter all three points above, with one sweeping move outrageous cake. And so it is that the strawberry and coconut came to be.

Sample this:DSC_0026I know it looks like just another cake. Like many others you have seen around here. But this is not just any cake. It is a crazy cake. With coconut thanks to residual Mallu-love that I seem to never run out of. With little nibbles of gooey strawberries. Held tightly together by whole wheat and coconut oil. And it is moist, gooey on the inside with lovely aeration; and has an almost crunchy crumb on the outside.

Not like you should find an excuse to justify an experiment like this, but if like me, you’re feeling crazy and you haven’t baked a cake in forever, perhaps this will interest you?

What you need
9″ bundt pan (or a 9″ round/square tin would work just fine, I think)
1 cup whole wheat flour + 1/2 cup maida
1 cup freshly grated coconut (whole and grainy, just the way the Lord made it)
1/2 cup sugar (because I had stored the strawberries in sugar before hand. If you are using freshly chopped strawberries, increase the sugar)
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1.25 cups buttermilk (milk + vinegar, made ahead)
Just under 1/2 cup coconut oil (if you’re weary of the flavour overpowering the cake, use a 50-50 combination of coconut oil and any neutral oil)
1/2 cup chopped strawberries (combine with 2 teaspoons of sugar, toss and keep aside for 3-4 hours)

How you can make it

Most times these experiments don’t call for too much thought (as you can see). I am reckless, heavy-handed, hasty and behave like I am high on sugar even before the cake is made and I have taken a bite. This is the perfect time for a dry ingredients-meets-wet-ingredients-mix-and-bake kind of situation.

Prepare your buttermilk and set it aside. Pre-heat your oven to 170 degrees C for about 20 minutes. Measure out the other wet ingredients. And then Measure out the dry ingredients.DSC_0003When the buttermilk has curdled enough (about 10-15 minutes) combine the wet ingredients together, and pour them into the dry ingredients.DSC_0008Mix it all up and pour in the chopped strawberries. My strawberries had been chopped and tossed in sugar a few hours earlier and that makes them disintegrate a bit, causing all that wonderful juicy goodness.DSC_0013 DSC_0017Fold in till well combines and pour into a well greased tin, and bake for 40 minutes. I was erring on the higher side because it was a deep bundt pan, if you’re using a shallower one like a round/square pan, check your cake after 30 mins or so.

And voila! Sometimes experiments smell so awesome and look so lovely, I want to dig in before the cake has even cooled completely.DSC_0023But I have been working on my patience. Trying to be still. Not poking and prodding hot cakes. It seems to be working. Because this is what the cake turned out (literally and figuratively!) like.DSC_0032And of course I took a bite when it was still warm.DSC_0046Warm, jammy interruptions in an otherwise moist cake with a perfectly browned crust. Chai time was superlative today.DSC_0051I don’t know what its going to take to make these moments of uncontrollable culinary enthu to stop. It doesn’t help that 4 out of every 5 such experiments turns out quite well for me. Perhaps a few failures will set me back on track, with the normal scale of things.

But then normal is boring.

(Here we go again.)

Somebody stop me.

Strawberry jam: ammama-style

An ode to my grandmother and all the wonderful things she has cooked me

What would a girl be without her grandmother? The one who would draw the curtains as the sun beat down on sunny afternoons, taking us into bed to tell us one neverending story after the other, while outside the shadows grew longer and the post-lunch lull was in the air. No matter that sleep was never in sight for us, and even though she might have wanted to nap, it was inevitable that she will spend her afternoon spinning one story after another. And yet she would do it patiently, never tiring and never running out of stories.

What would I do without the overflowing warmth and affection that is always in abundance when we visit? Regardless that I am pushing 30 now, she is always quick to grab me in an embrace and smother a dozen sloppy kisses on my cheeks. No matter that I am married and with a home/kitchen of my own, no visit to her home is complete without her cooking something I deeply love — one of those famed dishes that only turns out the tastiest when she gets her hands in on it.

What would I be without those memories of seasonal goodies? Gajar Halwa only in December, Besan Laddoos at Diwali-time, Til Ladoos at Sankranti — made ahead like a labour of love, packed neatly and sent with any unsuspecting messenger travelling Bangalore-wards.

What would I be without her painstaking love and effort? In embarking on laborious tasks like chopping kilos of strawberries, macerating them in large pots with lots of sugar, cooking them in a heavy pot, stirring continuously for hours on end until they broke down completely and made the super sticky and sweet homemade jam, that I have come to love and expect every new year? I’d be a sad, deprived girl. That’s what I’d be without it all.DSC_0127Ammama’s famed jam has made an appearance on my blog before. It’s more like a semi-liquid, stewed strawberry preserve, not really a hard-set jam. Free of artificial preservatives, flavours and coloured only by the jewels of fruit that fill it, this jam has a wonderfully sweet yet tangy taste, sticky fluid consistency that has a unique way of drenching a slice of toast in its juicy fruitness.DSC_0130Every year ammama would send me a bottle, come hell or high water, until I moved to Goa. It’s harder to find a messenger coming this way at just this time of year, you see. So I had to resort to making my own jam. I made my first batch last year after making a few calls, consulting with her on quantities and figuring out it was too dead-simple not to give this one a try.DSC_0136

Her trick? A 1:1 proportion of strawberries to sugar, and lots of patient and loving stirring on a low flame. I can safely say I have tried my best, and while the jam is all that I think jam should be, it is not exactly what ammama’s jam is. For that I would need the wisdom of 70+ years, fluffy white hair, an adorable twist in my walk and a heart full of selfless love.DSC_0143Yeah, that’s not happening any time soon. But one tries, and since food has an unbelievable way of making age gaps vanish, distances shrink and memories blend into one, today, as I slathered a bit of this fresh jam on my poee, I was momentarily transported to her dining table on a summer morning, lounging in my PJs as she told us yet another story from a time when she was young.

What you need
1.5 cups of roughly chopped strawberries
1 cup sugar (last year I used ammama’s 1:1 proportion, this year I toned it down a bit. If you like your jam super sweet stick with the 1:1 ratio, but if like me, you prefer it on the lighter side, cut the sugar down just a bit — not too much as that is the basis on which jam gets jammified)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (Optional. Last year I added a teaspoon of Balsamic Vinegar and the effect of both was a wonderful dark tinge and deep flavour. Take your pick or leave the additive out completely.)

How you can make itDSC_0132 — Chop the strawberries up roughly into smallish pieces
— Measure the pieces out and add sugar, proportionately
— Mix it all up well and tip into a heavy bottomed pot
— Put it on a medium flame and let the sugar dissolve completely
— Once the sugar has melted down fully, turn the flame down and begin to stir it gently
— The strawberries will take about 15-20 minutes to break down and stew
— Stir continuously to ensure the sugar doesn’t burn or stick
— In about 17-20 minutes test the consistency of the sugar syrup. When it forms a neat unbroken string between your thumb and index finger, the jam is done
— Add in the vanilla extract and mix well and take off the heat
— Allow the jam to cool, it will solidify just a little bit and get that preserve-like consistency
— Transfer into a clean, dry bottle and store in the refrigeratorDSC_0149

— Because of the slightly liquidy consistency, this jam makes a good spread on top of cakes and puddings too
— I have also used it as crush in milkshakes and smoothies
— I haven’t tried it myself, but my aunt also made a similar jam with apples and some assorted fruit

Genius, no?Merge

Strawberry crumb cake

My first time baking with strawberries

For the longest time I have lusted over the idea of using berries in baking. Seeing pictures of gooey fruity cake innards, compotes, assorted crumbles and crisps with fruity fluids seeping through have had my baking juices flowing for a while now. After that mini encounter of the season’s first strawberries, they seem to have disappeared from the markets here. After 2-3 failed attempts of going to the market and coming home empty handed, I demanded to know why they have vanished. Some furrowed brows and animated gesticulation followed in conversation with my fruit wallah, the gist of which was that I am a fool to go shopping at 6 pm in the evening, when I should be getting my lazy ass out of bed and to the market at 8 am, apparently. There are some serious strawberry lovers in tiny old Panjim. Because evidently they’re not out of stock, they’re running out even before I can get to them.

So last evening, when I spotted some surprisingly red looking strawberries at my supermarket, I grabbed more than a single box, and prayed to god that they were actually as sweet as they looked. My mind was a-flurry with options. Should I make a straight-forward cake? Take the easy route and make a crumble or a crisp instead? Or perhaps the occasion called for some big baking steps in the form of a tart? It also didn’t help that food-blog-world has been brimming with all sorts of fruity baking with mulberries, cranberries and the like and I have the evil habit of just substituting ingredients with the closest possible thing on hand. Whenever I see a drool-worthy cranberry recipe, I tell myself I’m going to make it with strawberries. So there. Conundrum-conundrum!

But all my questions were put to rest when I fished out this PW original I had bookmarked a while ago. It seemed to bring together the goodness of cake with the fruity juiciness of a compote and the crumby top of a crisp. And so I stopped looking, shut my laptop and went ahead to clean and chop the strawberries.DSC_0003I have adjusted the recipe quite a bit, mostly cutting down the sugar and butter quotients. What I didn’t do this time was eliminate the butter and replace it with another fat. Maybe its the PMS, maybe its the winter, maybe its the fact that I finally found strawberries and I don’t know how they would pair with olive oil — but I needed my fat. So I decided to go with good ol butter.

For the crumbly top I also substituted flour with oats. And because Pioneer Woman bakes for her mini army of nothing less than 14-16 people at any given time, she bakes this in a 9×13 pan. I adjusted this quite arbitrarily and it worked out fine in my 8″ pan.

What I used
For the cake
8″ square pan
40 grams butter
A little less than 1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat and 1/4 cup maida)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2-1 cup milk (depending on consistency
1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries chopped into big chunks

For the crumby top
3 tablespoons butter, cold and chopped into chunks
A little less than 1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup oats
1-2 tablespoons flour

How I made it

I set my oven to preheat at 170 degrees C, buttered my 8″ pan and set it aside.

I measured out the butter in a mixing bowl, added sugar to it and whisked it with my hand beater. Granulated sugar is not the way to go when it comes to cakes that have finesse. Unfortunately, I neither have any finesse, nor do I pretend to have any. So granulated sugar works for me. But if you are the painstaking kind, please powder the sugar. I know it makes a difference that is worth it. Someday I will learn to stop being a lazy oaf and powder that sugar!DSC_0009Then I added in an egg and the vanilla and continued to whisk till it was well combined.DSC_0014Next, I added in the flour and milk alternatively, mixing well in between additions, until just incorporated and making sure I didn’t over-beat it.DSC_0016Then, tipped in the strawberries and using my spatula mixed them all up until evenly distributed.DSC_0018DSC_0020Pouring the batter into the pan, I evened out the top and set it aside.

In a separate bowl, I threw together the oats, sugar and a little flour. I chopped up the cold butter into chunks and added it in. Then, using the back of a fork, I cut the butter into the mixture till it was all broken down a fair bit.DSC_0028

Using my hands, I crumbled it further till it resembled breadcrumbs and sprinkled the mixture over the cake.DSC_0030DSC_0031Then I stuck it into my oven, only to realise I had smartly turned on the timer and heat, without turning the power on. So I had to re-pre-heat the oven. The right way this time. So coffee was made and had, while I watched over the cake, hoping the butter wouldn’t melt through in the Goan afternoon heat.DSC_0034Finally, when the cake went into the oven, I baked it for 45 minutes, turning on the top coils for the last 3-4 minutes to paint the cake a nice golden brown.DSC_0035When it was cooled, I cut it into squares and sampled it. The tartness, luscious pulpiness of the strawberries is perfectly complemented with this almost-crunchy cake and it makes it a great dessert with vanilla ice cream of fresh cream.DSC_0042If its easy to find strawberries in your neck of the woods, this cake needs to be made.DSC_0038Have it warm, have it cold, have it plain, have it with vanilla ice cream — one way or the other, make it and have it. And it is sure to bring some bright fruity happiness to your winter days!