Hey guys, it’s party time over here, because guess what? Guilt Free turns 4 today! We are just one year short of completing half a decade on blogosphere. Isn’t that absolutely fantastic? It’s been such a roller coaster journey and as I get slightly (okay well… a lot) nostalgic today, let me take you through the helluva ride Guilt Free has been.
- Eat Like a Bong: Oh My! How can I ever forget that? For an entire month before Durga Pujo in 2014, I churned out for you 30 quintessentially Bengali recipes, one for every day of the month. That was a mammoth task I took upon myself, and I still can’t believe that I completed it. This Gondhoraj Chicken, Kolkata Chicken Roll, Kosha Mangsho, Chhanar Dalna, Chitol Maachher Muithya, Bhetki Paturi are some of the most visited posts on my blog, even today! I don’t think I can ever do a recipe marathon of that magnitude again!
- Kickstarting Christmas: If Eat Like a Bong wasn’t enough, two months later I embarked into another recipe marathon, this time heralding Christmas. But good sense prevailed and instead of running like a headless chicken for 30 days, I chose to wind it down to 10 days. Unfortunately I missed Days 9 and 10, and those recipes of Eggnog Scones and Christmas Fruitcake still sit on my draft (for some inexplicable reason, I have failed to post them in the ensuing three years as well!)
- It’s Raining Mangoes: In the following summer (2015), I chose to honour India’s favourite fruit Mango through 10 sweet and savoury recipes. I’ve never been much of a mango lover myself, but some of the recipes (especially this Mango Summer Salad and Malaysian Mango Chicken) made me a complete convert.
- Summertime Love: Right after I was done with It’s Raining Mangoes, I collaborated with my friend and blogger Manjari (of For the Love of Food) in dishing out chilled and frozen desserts and drinks to help you stay cool through the tortuous summer months.
- Up Close and Personal: Masterchef Australia Style: It will be impertinent to talk about the high points in the life of Guilt Free without mentioning the phenomenal experience of meeting the judges of Masterchef Australia: Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris and covering one of the most hilarious chat sessions I’ve witnessed in a long time.
- Guilt Free and its maker have also been extremely fortunate to be recognized by publications and online portals like Scoopwhoop, The Telegraph, The Times of India, Quartz and Ebela.
I started Guilt Free on February 4. 2014, in Calcutta, India, while I was living with my parents. During the initial years of Guilt Free, their role was profound. With bags of encouragement and insatiable appetites, my Ma, Baba, Jekubaba (paternal uncle) and Rika (paternal aunt) stood as pillars of support for a blog that was still taking baby steps. I will never forget the days when Ma called me at office late and night and asked, “Fridge e je cake ta ache otar ki chhobi tola hoye gechhe? Amra ki khete pari?” (Has the cake that is lying in the refrigerator already been photographed? Can we eat it?) Ma loves cakes, but she would wait for hours, sometimes days, before I gave her the green signal to eat. It would be criminal to forget our then house help Maya for all she has done for the blog. From ensuring that my butter and eggs were at room temperature before I returned from office (after repeated reminders… but still!), to quickly rolling out a couple of parathas because only the curries looked meh in pictures and running to the market in the blazing afternoon just because I needed something as inane as lebu paata. No amount of thanks would be enough for her contribution to Guilt Free.
Guilt Free started its second leg in Bangalore in January 2016. This was a much different setting and a much more challenging environment. Pulverized by a crazy office schedule, personal studies and maintaining a home, I gradually began to lose steam and my darling blog became its first casualty. The whole of 2016 was just bland except for this 7-part travelogue to Italy. The only bright side of things was that I finally ditched my point and shoot and started familiarizing myself with a Canon Rebel t3i.
2017 was a rocky ride for Guilt Free courtesy some major life changes that were happening at our end. In March we got our US visa that warranted our impending relocation from the Motherland to Trumpland. In April, all our stuff (including the camera, all my cookbooks and props) were packed and shipped to Seattle, while I stayed back to wrap up my notice period and visit family and friends in Calcutta before I finally set sail. Separated from the camera and props for four long months, Guilt Free sat idle, while I was saved from the horrors of cooking in Calcutta summer yet again!
After I landed Seattle in August, set up the house and enrolled myself in school, I thought it was about time to relaunch Guilt Free. It had been away from the public eye for more than 7 months and it only seemed fitting that it was presented in a completely new avatar. Thus began the process of acquiring a domain, getting a host and spending sleepless nights working on the tech behind the blog. After two months of endless efforts, Guilt Free stepped into 2018 as a new entity with a new address and a completely fresh look and feel.
To keep Guilt Free going beyond the first two years required a lot of motivation, and there were some people who stood by its side with unflinching support. Sayon, Sreeja, Sumana, Manjari, Madhushree di and Anindya da are a few names that come to mind right off the bat. A big shoutout to my family in Seattle Jyoti di and Angshu da who are always willing to trying out whatever I make and are relentless in their suggestions of opening a food truck! But I have to give this one to P, or muesli-man as he is otherwise known. For someone who takes zero interest in good food (or food beyond breakfast cereals in general), his devotion to always looking out for good props, great kitchen gadgets and rare-to find ingredients has been exemplary! From walking alongside me without complain as I went berserk in San Lorenzo Market in Florence or TimeOut Market in Lisbon, to gifting me a professional KitchenAid stand mixer out of the blues, and lending me his brand new 6D Mark II (with which I shot only once), he has been a formative force behind Guilt Free in the last couple of years.
As they say, “All’s Well that Ends Well” and hopefully Guilt Free’s bumpy ride has ended once and for all. As it steps into its fifth year, let’s cut this decadently moist and sinful Chocolate Almond Cake (a Julia Child recipe) and hope for a much smoother and utterly delicious future!
Julia Child's Chocolate Almond CakePrint
- For the cake:
- Dark chocolate, chopped roughly: 120 gm
- Black coffee: 2 tbsp
- Butter, at room temperature: 100 gm
- Caster sugar, divided: 120 gm + 1 tbsp
- Eggs, separated: 3
- Salt: a pinch (if using unsalted butter)
- Almond meal: 40 gm (almond meal is nothing but almonds ground to a course powder)
- Vanilla extract: 1 tsp
- All purpose flour, sifted: 50 gm
- For the icing:
- Dark chocolate, chopped roughly: 60 gm
- Black coffee: 2 tbsp
- Butter, at room temperature: 50 gm
- Slivered almonds: For garnish
To make the cake:
1. Preheat oven to 180 degree C/350 degree F. Butter and flour an 8-inch round cake pan and line with parchment paper.
2. In a double boiler, gently heat the chocolate and coffee. Keep stirring the chocolate as it melts. Take off from the heat as soon as smooth and silky. Set aside.
3. In a big mixing bowl, beat the butter and 120 gm of sugar until pale and creamy. Add the 3 egg yolks and continue beating.
4. In a separate bowl, whip the 3 egg whites and salt until soft peaks are formed. Slowly add the tablespoon of sugar and whip to form stiff peaks.
5. Gently add the melted chocolate (which should be now in room temperature) to the butter and sugar mixture in the big mixing bowl. Fold in the almond meal into the mixture until just incorporated. Add a dash of vanilla and mix once more.
6. Immediately stir in 1/4 of the whipped egg whites to the batter and fold gently until combined. Fold in the remaining whipped whites in 3 additions, alternating with the sifted flour. Make sure that all streaks of egg whites disappear but do not overmix.
7. Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the edges are set but the centre is still wobbly when the pan is shaken and a needle comes out slightly oily.
8. Let cool 10 minutes, then unmould carefully and place on a wire rack to cool completely for an hour or two before it can be iced.
To make the icing:
9. In a double boiler, combine the chopped chocolate and coffee in a small bowl and place over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir as the chocolate melts and remove from heat as soon as it’s smooth.
10. Add the butter a tablespoon at a time and use a whisk to beat it into the chocolate. Let the icing cool to a spreadable consistency, stirring it every 5 minutes or so for 30-40 min.
11. Spread the icing on the cake starting from the centre and gradually working out to the edges. Garnish with slivered almonds.
There you have. One of the best chocolate cakes you’ve ever eaten!