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Diwali Cheer


This year, for the very first time in my life, I decided to make homemade gifts for Diwali. I've baked cakes for friends' birthdays and stuff but never before have I made pretty looking packages of sweet goodies. And it truly made a difference, seeing how happy it made my friends to get something that wasn't store bought. I hope you are having a happy Diwali too and just in case I couldn't get one of these over to you, here are the recipes to help you make your Diwali a little bit sweeter.

Because it was my first time making a gift, I chose something super simple. Two bottles of sweet sauces - one salted caramel, one chocolate. I also used this as an excuse to make a trip to South Bombay's Crawford Market. What a place that is! Full of stores that sell all kinds of beautiful packaging and boxes. I asked for a place to buy glass jars and got guided down to another market, just opposite the bustling Crawford building, and into a store that had pretty much everything you could look for as a cook. A few doors down, I found another store selling only glass jars. I thought it was a quick trip but the place was so surreal and the winded streets so exciting, I ended up spending a couple of hours there.

Now on to the actual food in those jars. For chocolate, I considered and rejected all sorts of hot fudge sauces. I figured the simplest of all chocolate sauces - a ganache - will be ideal for my friends to dip fruits in or just eat straight out of the jar. To make the ganache, chop 400 grams dark chocolate into small pieces. If you are in India, make sure you buy real/coverture chocolate and not chocolate compound. In a saucepan, mix 1 cup of cream (I used Amul which has 25% fat) with 1/4 cup sugar and a tsp of vanilla extract. Set to heat on a low flame. When the cream has warmed up, add the chocolate and stir until the chocolate all melts and forms a shiny sauce.

Now for the slightly scary one - the salted caramel sauce. I have actually gone from being totally scared of caramel a few years ago to the other extreme - I completely enjoy making caramel now. To start off this sauce, I measured out a cup of cream (the same Amul 25%) and put it in small saucepan. Added 50 grams of butter, a tsp of vanilla extract and 1 tsp salt, then heated everything slowly until the butter melted. Took the cream off the heat and put it aside.

Next, I put two cups of caster sugar in a large pan. To this, I added 1/2 tbsp. vinegar (essential to keep sugar from crystallising) and 1/3 cup water. Mixed everything so the sugar looked like wet mortar. At this point, put your spoon away because there will be no more stirring. I put the sugar to heat and waited. That's it, simply wait while the sugar melts and bubbles. Swirl it occasionally if you like but otherwise, just stand there and stare at the pan until the sugar turns amber. It will take several minutes so be patient. Don't go anywhere, don't answer the phone and don't be tempted by a quick peek at what's going on in the next room.

Once the sugar has turned an amber colour, turn off the heat and pour the cream in. Step back and watch while the caramel bubbles like crazy and it's all fun for a few minutes. You will also see the caramel get much darker on account of some scientific phenomenon that I don't fully understand. When the bubbling looks under control, stir the sauce and put the caramel back on the heat to cook for 2-3 minutes until everything is mixed in. Pour both sauces in jars, wait for them to cool, then close the lids and put them in the sparkliest, prettiest bags and boxes you can find. After all, Diwali isn't a time for restraint!

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