Thursday, December 15, 2011

Black Forest cake recipe for little chefs

This article was originally published in Parenting Clan on December 14, 2011.

Parents and guardians constantly have to look for fun and innovative ways to keep the children engaged and out of mischief. Cooking can be one such way. Engaging children in the kitchen will not only keep the kids engaged but also will be a learning experience for them. Asking your kids to assist you in making their loved dishes will definitely spell fun for them. Or better, ask them to cook something with your assistance. During the holiday season, what can be better than baking a Black Forest Cake with your children. Choosing a simpler version of the cake recipe can be a great way of teaching your children the dish and also having fun in the process. So, lets get you started!
 Black Forest Cake
Difficulty level: Medium
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes
a. Chocolate Cake Mix: 1 packet of 470 grams
b. Morello Cherries: 1 Jar of 670 grams
c. Caster Sugar: 2 tbs
d. Cornflour: 1 tbs
e. Thickened Cream: 600 ml
f. Kirsch: 600 ml (1/4 cup)
g. Boiling Water: 2 tbs
h. Caster Sugar (extra): 2 tbs
i. Dark Cooking Chocolate: 100 grams (coarsely grated)
Step by step method:
  1. Follow the instructions on the chocolate cake mix packet to prepare and bake the chocolate. You can also make your own chocolate cake if you do not want to use the ready made cake mix.
  2. After the cake is baked, let it cool down completely. Once cooled, use a large knife and cut the cake horizontally into three layers.
  3. Open the jar of cherries and drain the cherries. Retain 160 ml of the juice (around 2/3 cup). Keep aside 10 cherries aside (more if you wish) for decoration.
  4. Pour the remaining cherries along with the retained juice on a saucepan. Add the sugar and cornflour. Stir the mixture over medium to low heat till the mixture boils and thickens. After that, transfer the thicken mixture to a large bowl. Cover the mouth of the bowl with plastic wrap and place the bowl in the fridge to chill.
  5. Beat the cream in a medium bowl till firm peaks are formed. You can also use a electric beater.
  6. Add the kirsch, water and extra sugar in a jug and stir till the sugar dissolves.
  7. Take a serving plate and place one layer of cake on it. Drizzle the layer with more than half of the kirsch mixture. Spread half of the cherry mixture over the layer and follow it with a thin layer of the beaten cream. Now place the second layer of cake. Repeat the above process with the kirsch mixture, cherry mixture and cream. Place the third layer of the cake to finish.
  8. Spread some of the beaten cream over the top and sides of the cake. Sprinkle the grated chocolate over the cake and press some gently on the sides.
  9. Fit a 1 cm fluted nozzle to a piping bag. Pour the remaining cream into the piping bag. You can pipe rosettes around the edge of the cake. Then place the cherries kept aside for decoration between the rosettes. Your cake is ready to be cut and served.

Quick tips:
  1. You can use your own special chocolate cake recipe instead of the mix.
  2. You can add a crispy crust to your cake. Crush a few biscuits coarsely. Apply a little jam to the sides of the cake and press the crushed biscuit over it.
  3. Instead of grated chocolate, you can use curled chocolate. You can curl the chocolate by using a potato peeler instead of a grater.
  4. You can add 1/2 tbs of vanilla essence and 1 tbs of kirsch while beating the cream.
  5. Instead of 3 layers, you can have more layers. You just need to cut the cake horizontally into the number of layers you want. But do not make the layers very thin.
  6. Instead of the cherries, you can use strawberries also.
Watch out:
  1. Do not leave your children in the kitchen unsupervised.
  2. Do not ask the younger children to cut or grate things.
  3. Do not cut the cake layers thinly. Else it will be difficult to handle them and also it will soak excess kirsch mixture and crumble down.
  4. Do not drizzle excess kirsch mixture or you cake will be dripping with it.
  5. Do not give fat layers of cream between the chocolate cake layers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How to unclog a sink drain?

The original article was published in Plumbing Daily on 6th December, 2011.

Clogged sink drains in bathrooms and kitchens is one of the most common and basic plumbing problem we face in our household activities. As you already know, the most regular culprits are the combination of soap, hair and tepid water in the bathrooms, and tepid water and food particles in the kitchen sinks. Cleaning clogged sink drain is a little dirty business. The easy way out is using chemical drain cleaners which are available in the market. But we should always refrain from using such products as they are very toxic in nature and getting the toxic stuff out of the sink becomes another job at hand again. So, manual cleaning is the advised method. With a few tools and some handy tips, you can easily unclog your sink drains without much mess. Your basic tool is a plunger and may be a little duct tape if needed. Here are a few easy steps which you can follow while unclogging your sink drains:
1. If your sink has metallic pipes, pour boiling water slowly into the sink. Avoid the porcelain and pour directly into the drain. Please avoid this step if you have PVC pipes. Many a times boiling water melts the clog. If the clog is still there, then try the next step.

2. After you have tried the boiling water method, pour some cold water to cool down the pipes. Then seal the sink's overflow hole. First fill half of the sink with water and place the plunger over the sink hole. Now plunge sharply and evenly in quick movements. Then check for drainage. If the water in the sink is moving out, it means the plunging worked. But if the plunging does not push the clog down the drain, then you might need to snake it out instead. Once your job is done, remove the duct tape over the sink overflow hole.