Sunday, 30 December 2007

Birthday spread - part 2

Here's hoping third time's the charm! Now I see that if instead of composing in the Picasa window, I had typed it up here, good old Blogger would have been auto-saving my efforts. Ah well, you live and learn. So here are some close-ups and recipes from the birthday party.

Chocolate cupcakes
This recipe has fast become my favorite chocolate cake recipe, it's fool-proof, i.e. me-proof.

Makes about 2 and half dozen cupcakes. [The original recipe from Gourmet is for a 9 inch round layer cake. ]

2 cups all purpose flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa (not dutch-process)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks butter
1 cup brown sugar (packed)
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 deg. line 2 12-muffin trays, or 2 9-inch round pans. I had enough batter left over for a 4 inch round cake after filling the two muffin pans.
Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Beat the sugars and butter in a larger bowl, or bowl of a stand mixer until light, can take several minutes with a handheld. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well each time. Add melted chocolate and vanilla until. Now alternately add the buttermilk (1/3rd at a time) and flour (1/4th a time) ending with flour. Mix until just combined and spoon into muffin cases. Bake for about 20 minutes, or 25-35 if using the round pans.

White Chocolate frosting

8 oz white chocolate, broken into large pieces
1/2 cup cream
4 oz butter
12 oz confectioner's sugar
Melt the chocolate with the butter over a pan of simmering water. remove from heat and whip in the cream and the sifted icing sugar, keeping whipping until smooth and thick. refrigerate for about thirty minutes before using. I was a little hasty in using it, with the clock ticking and all, so it was a bit soft and drippy, but i had some leftover that i used later that was perfect for piping. I divided the icing into four bowls and used Ateco gel colors -- green, blue and pink in three of them. I had ordered the colors from Amazon for Halloween, but they hadn't arrived on time, but at least I had them for the birthday.

Pipe or spoon onto the cupcakes and enjoy!

Raspberry Financiers

adapted from here

4 egg whites
Scant 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
11 tablespoons butter (i used 9 because the almond meal has more fat than flour)
Scant 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup almond flour (i used almond meal)
1/2 pint fresh raspberries (about 24)

Mix the egg whites and sugar in a medium bowl over saucepan filled with simmering water and stir until until the whites warm slightly and the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a small saucepan, cook the butter on medium heat until it browns and gives off a nutty aroma. Don't overcook and remove promptly from heat when you see golden sediments at the bottom (FYI, this cooked butter is the ghee used in Indian cooking).
In a large bowl whisk the egg white mixture at low speed. Gently add the flour, followed by the almond flour, and mix just enough to combine. Add in the warm butter in a thin stream, mixing at low speed. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl, and continue to mix 10 seconds so the batter is completely combined. Here is the strange part: cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, preferably overnight (I did overnight so there would be one less thing to do the day of the party).
When ready to bake, take out the batter and heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter 2 miniature muffin pans (it's OK if you have only one, you can do them in batches). Fill the molds two-thirds full with batter, about one generous tablespoon, and place a fresh raspberry on top of each. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack. Repeat if you have any batter remaining, or using one tray.
Each financier: 77 calories; 1 gram protein; 7 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram fiber; 5 grams fat; 3 grams saturated fat; 11 mg. cholesterol; 8 mg. sodium.

Chicken Rolls

I was inspired to make this from a recipe on Delia Smith's website... she's my mom's favorite TV cook. I decided to go with chicken, hoping it would be healthier, and because several of my guests do not eat beef. For the chicken mixture, i went with a traditional family recipe for meatballs.

2 pounds chicken, ground
2-3 green chiles (jalapeno or serrano)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 inch ginger chopped coarsely
1 clove garlic (optional)
1 large bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
1 medium onion, (yellow or red)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp or less of crushed red chile (not cayenne powder)
2 tsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp unseasoned bread crumbs
10 puff pastry sheets


Pulse the green chiles, salt and cumin for a few seconds, until chiles are chopped. Add ginger and garlic, if using (it gives an Indian-restaurant style seekh kebab taste) and pulse until combined and there are no large pieces. Add the onions, then cilantro and pulse until you get a coarse mixture. Remove into a bowl and add ground chicken ((if you can't get ground chicken, you can use chicken breasts and chop them and whiz them in a processor with other ingredients), black pepper, crushed red chiles and vegetable oil. Mix well and taste, and adjust salt and pepper according to taste. If the mixture seems a little wet, add the bread crumbs.
I was too chicken to use the mixture uncooked -- I had visions of soggy pastry as the meat gave off water. So I shaped the meat into rolls the length of the pastry sheets, about 4 inches, and laid them in single layer in a heavy saute pan and let it cook on a low heat for about 30 minutes or until the water evaporates.
Next, heat the oven to 375 degrees. To assemble, place one roll on each pastry sheet (i added a slice of onion and tomato) roll up, and cut in two and place on a greased baking tray. Bake until golden brown.

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Birthday spread

So, with Aamena away having fun in Bombay, I'm going to try to keep the blog fires burning and catch up on some posts that I've been meaning to write. Well this picture is from my younger daughter's first birthday last month. We had a small tea-time party. The birthday girl was a bit out of it... we found out a day later at the doctor's that she had an ear infection. Given the circumstances, she was quite an angel! I made some chocolate cupcakes, chicken kebab rolls, various sandwiches, raspberry financiers and spinach quiche, and hot wings. 

[cue an hour later]
OK, so today I nearly became a serial killer! I twice wrote up a separate post with recipes for the cupcakes, financiers and chicken rolls, and the first time, when i was half way through, DD2 came and touched something, and made the whole draft disappear. Then the second time, when i was about one sentence from hitting publish, DD1 came and touched the mouse, effectively hitting the "back" button. It was all i could do to control myself! Anyhow, the lesson from this is, blog only when the kiddos are sleeping or otherwise fully occupied, ie out of the house! Now that I have to go to work, that post will have to be written tomorrow, or possibly tonight. :-(
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Saturday, 22 December 2007

Daring Bakers December Challenge: Yule Log

This was my first challenge and it was hosted by Lis and Ivonne, the founders,  and the recipe chosen by 'em was for a Yule Log, which was basically genoise and swiss meringue buttercream. Anybody who remembers my first attempt at meringue buttercream would understand why I was abit nervous. My genoise was just fine. I spread chocolate ganache over it before rolling it up, and decided to tackle the buttercream the next day. It turned out that I was both, luckier and otherwise in comparison to my last time.

The buttercream was fine till I decided it looked runny and refrigerated it for a while (
special thanks to Helene of Tartelette for all the tips for buttercream gone awry). What came out was a deflated curdled mass. Whisking it didn't help. So I tried melting 25% of it and adding it back to the lot and whisking again, it did get slightly better, but only slightly. I was tired and frustrated and was quite sure I didn't want to have another go, starting from the beginning, so I just put the curdled mass in a mixer grinder along with icing sugar and pulsed it. Viola, it got better, I added some more icing sugar and pulsed some more, and the buttercream came together! I thanked my stars! Though it wasn't light and fluffly but it was atleast spreadable!

Since I didn't get the time to take pictures while making, am posting a few of the finished thing which was liked by all! So here it is, with a few marzipan mushrooms and some cocoa.

Do check out the other Daring Bakers for some more logs!


Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Banoffi Pie

This has become a fast favourite with my entire family. Whenever we have overripe bananas (soemtimes we let them get overripe :P) it means either Banana Bread or Banoffi Pie. More often Banoffi Pie, because it a quick no-bake thing and is absolutely delicious, never mind the calories! I think I must have made it countless times ever since we chanced upon the recipe, tried it and loved it. Posting two quick pictures, a feast for your eyes!


Monday, 10 December 2007

Banana nut loaf

Aah, banana nut loaves/bread, you might think 'tried one, tried them all' -- but no, there are as many variations as there are recipes. For a while I used up overripe bananas by adding them to Nick Malgieri's Buttery Nut Cake recipe. About 2 bananas for half the recipe, with crushed walnuts. Rich and moist. A colleague brought in Tyler Florence's version with some chocolate chips. Dense and bread like. That was added to my tiny repertoire - with walnuts instead of pecans (somehow I can't stand them) and finally I think I've hit the jackpot with good ol' Martha's banana nut loaf. You judge, I've made it twice in a month (recipe yield 2 loaves!). Using vegetable oil keeps it lighter, IMO, and fresher. The coconut adds an interesting complexity to the taste, but is so subtle that unless told you might not know it's there. Very unusual.
Adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
11/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tbsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened coconut
11/2 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3-4)
1 cup (4 oz) walnuts or pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray/butter 2 9 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder and salt. In another bowl, or bowl of an electric mixer, beat the eggs and sugar and oil on low-medium speed until mixed. Beat in the dry mixture, then add the remaining ingredients until just combined. Divide batter evenly between the two tins, smooth top. Bake until tester comes out clean, about 60 minutes. do rotate and swap positions half way through.
WHen done, cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before removing. Stores well at room temperature in an airtight container or wrapped in plastic. Can be frozen for 3 months.
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Pineapple and cake and cream!

No, I haven't gone nuts over chiffon cakes.. Just that this cute li'l chap

had been lying around the kitchen and I had this funny desire to devour him with some cake and cream, and then I had two reasons, the first one being my kid sis, Aaliya, winning the inter school debate 'Materialism is degrading social values,' and her picture along with her partner's and the judges' appeared in a popular newspapers' student edition and she was rather sad that she looked fat but happy that her watch looked cool. Yes, she spoke for the motion! Well the second reason was that at that time I had only one more exam to go, and that was a really good reason. Oh, there was a third one as well, just came to my mind, and this one was the driving force, that my mother said it wouldn't be good for the poor pineapple if it was made to stand there another day, and as I just said, I had a craving, so I had to act.

As you can see the cream is all runny. I used my 25% cream again, but it appears I was only first time lucky, because I have used it thrice now, and for the past two times, no matter what, it just won't get stiff when I beat it. It does gain alot of volume but that's it. But it turns out I wasn't that unlucky, because I discovered that this runny thing goes very well cakes anyway, you can make the cake soak up some, so that it gets nice and moist, and isn't dry, and you can also then cover it with it, that is its not that runny, which is what I did. The was the same as my first time lucky one, just that this time no ganache, the layers had cream and pineapple between them, I used up the whole for this three layered one.

And another thing, I really don't why, but the cake had a definite sour taste to it. It wasn't pronounced enough to make the cake taste bad, but definitely there. I don't know if it was the cream, or the pineapple juice (which I got from boiling the remains with some water) I made the cake soak, you see I wanted a through and through pineapple cake! But the strange thing about the sour taste was that it got weaker with time. So that the last slice I and Aaliya shared on the third day of making the cake didn't have that sour taste at all!


Wednesday, 28 November 2007

happy birthday to me!

coz i don't do no baking on my birthday, i got this amazing cheesecake and the yummy chocolate cake! yeah!


Wednesday, 14 November 2007

that same day...

The same day, because I knew I always have some leftover cream (and this time ganache as well) I baked a sheet cake merging the regular sponge recipe (30:30:1) and the chiffon shortcake recipe.

The ingredients-

30*6 gm flour
30*6 gm sugar
1*6 eggs

These are the regular sponge ingredients, apart from this I also added ( going the chiffon way),

Half a tablespoon baking powder
Half a teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Incase you don't have leftovers, for the filling you'll need-

Chocolate Ganache (Bring to the boil half a cup of cream in a saucepan, remove from heat and add around a quarter pound chopped semisweet chocolate to it, swirl the pan so the cream covers the chocolate, let it rest for five minutes, then whisk till smooth. Let cool, it will firm up as it does that.

And around half a cup of whipped cream, whipped with confectioner's sugar added according to your taste (around four tablespoons should be fine)

Then I proceeded as for the chiffon shortcake (check out the post before this one), with the exception that I used all the yolks as well, so that my yolks to whites ratio was 1:1. Also I noticed that using more water yields a softer cake. I cut the cake into two layers, sandwiched the layers with the ganache and then covered them with whipped cream, and it was good!


1. Preheat oven to 325F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, the baking powder, salt and 150gm sugar.

3. Separate the eggs. Beat the egg yolks, vanilla essence, lemon zest, oil and water until smooth. Stir in the flour to form a smooth mass.

4. Beat the egg whites, slowly adding the remaining sugar, until stiff peaks are formed.

5. Fold in a quarter of the egg whites into the flour mixture. Fold in the rest.

6. Bake for 35-40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.

7. Let cool.

Assembling the cake:

Slice the cake into two layers. Sandwitch the layers with ganache. Cover with whipped cream.


Chiffon Shortcake with Chocolate Ganache and Whipped Cream

A family friend, who is like family only, recently moved to a better job, so had been wanting to make a Congratulations Cake, which I did finally a few days back. Got a bit enthusiastic and tried something new with
hmm... good results.

I decided to bake a chiffon shortcake and ice it with whipped cream and to add some flavour I layered it with chocolate ganache. Oh well you could argue that chocolate makes everything good!

I adapted the recipe for Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake from the Joy of Cooking (also of course I used no strawberries).

Cake layers:
11/8 cups sifted cake flour
1/2 and 1/4 cups superfine or regular sugar, divided
Half a tablespoon baking powder
Half a teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Zest of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
5 large egg whites at room temperature

1 cup heavy cream
Half a pound semisweet chocolate, chopped.

And a cup of whipping cream for covering the cake ( though I used 25% cream, and was really happy when it stiffened up! It was very light and make the cake taste better, not at all buttery, greasy or heavy. Though am not sure if it will work everytime).

1.Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Have a 9-inch round cake pan ready, lined with parchment paper.

2. Sift the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder and salt twice together into a large bowl.

3. In a another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth. In another large bowl, beat the egg whites until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining ¼ cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.

4. Use a rubber spatula to fold a quarter of the egg whites into the flour mixture, then gently fold in the remaining egg whites, only until the egg whites are no longer visible. Overdoing it will deflate them.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake it until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 to 50 minutes.

6. Let the cake cool before taking it out of the pan and peeling off the parchment paper.

7. Make the ganache: Bring the cream to a boil in a saucepan, remove from heat and add the chocolate and swirl to cover all the chocolate. Let it rest for 5 minutes. Whisk with a hand whisk until smooth. Let cool. Whisk again.

8. Add some sugar to the whipping cream and whip it with an electric mixer till stiff.

folding in the whites...

cooling and slicing the cake...


Assembling the cake:

Split the cake into three layers or even two would be fine I don't know how I managed three! I made a ring of whipped cream before pouring in the ganache so that it wouldn't leak later. Spread the ganache and top with the other or another layer, depending upon how many you have. Cover the top and the sides with whipped cream, decorate with chocolate curls if desired, or pipe the leftover ganache.

Early on I was planning a white on white cake, but then I felt it looked too plain so I piped on some ganache and added a few chocolate curls (a firm piece of chocolate and a vegetable peeler).


Friday, 2 November 2007

Halloween goodies!

Well, my 3-year-old is totally into Halloween now, so I decided to have a small dress-up party for her and her friends, since I'd be working on the actual day of Halloween. I didn't want to make anything too spooky for preschoolers... so I let the theme be pumpkins, no bloodshot eyes and severed hands.
First, I apologize for the poor photos, the one thing my husband did that day, and he messed up!

Anyway, the cake was this devil's food Halloween cake

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from Gourmet magazine. The original recipe has a chocolate spider, its legs extending over the sides of the cake, a really neat idea that I want to try next time. The cake itself was yum, though I wonder if it would have been better with chocolate instead of cocoa powder. I did have another devil food's cake recipe using chocalate from Nick Maglieri's book How to Bake, but my stupid fridge had frozen the sour cream his recipe calls for. Anywho, everyone said they liked the cake, though my 3-year-old was a little freaked out by the orange and black icing. The icing was an amalgam of this quick vanilla buttercream icing I found online and the frosting in the Bon Apetit recipe. I also stuck some of Wilton's Halloween sprinkles along the edges, very unprofessionally.
The cupcakes were plain vanilla, to which I added half a cup of chocolate chips, using the same frosting. This was my first time piping anything, and while the spiders' webs weren't hard, my spiders turned out rather double-jointed and my attempt at a bat was unrecognizable!


Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Palak Paneer Pie... once again..

Am sure most of you reading this won't know that Palak Paneer Pie was my first ever post to this blog. Since then I have often thought of the changes I would like to make to that particular post. And today I decided to make a new post with all the things which I feel should have been in that first post.

The first thing would be I think a picture of the stuffing. So here we go...

You can see the Palak (spinach), the white stuff is the paneer (indian cheese), the pomegranates, the onion and the peas.

Another thing I would like to suggest here for people who would prefer a-not-so-soft lower crust is that you may blind bake your lower crust, and use cooked spinach. Just chop the spinach, put it in a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Within a few minutes it will have separated into a green mass and quite a lot of water, cook till all the water evaporates and then use this spinach. This is something I have done, so I know its just fine.

Another thing I have taken to is cutting out shapes from the upper crust instead of making steam vents with a tooth pick.

And here is what you can do with the left over dough, specially if you like your crust crisp. Oh I know you would think anyone likes it that way, but with Palak Paneer Pie it all tastes good. Nonetheless these cut outs are nice to eat alongwith the pie.


Sunday, 21 October 2007

Banana-Toffee Pie

This, according to Reader's Digest, is a slice of the world's best pie. RD happens to be where I got the recipe from, and I regret to say that I hadn't heard of it before. It's certainly worth knowing and making again and again. The recipe is simple enough, the ingredients are:

300gm Marie Biscuits (or graham crackers)
1 can of condensed milk, 400gm
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 bananas
A cup of whipped cream, or more if you like
Some grated chocolate, or chocolate curls

Now for the method.

The most important and time-consuming part of this recipe is the toffee making. You have to cook the unopened, yes, unopened, can of condensed milk in boiling water for 3 hours. Make sure the can is always under water, if uncovered it might explode. This is how you get the toffee. And it's worth it. [You can boil several cans at a time, which is what I did after I made this once and liked it enough to want to make it loads of times more.... The toffee keeps indefinitely in the unopened can and can be stored and used at leisure.

Put the biscuits/crackers in a plastic bag, and crush them with a rolling pin till you get what you see in the picture. Though alternately you can pulse it in a food processor/mixer. (The actual recipe calls for 250 gm of biscuit, but I prefer a thicker crust, maybe next time I might make it 400gm, not kidding)

In a saucepan over low heat mix thoroughly the biscuits and the butter, until its warm to the touch. Put this mixture in the dish you plan to make your pie in. For my first attempt, I used a baking tin lined with parchment paper.

Smooth it out. Nice job, right? Once you've done this, refrigerate it for around half an hour.

Add the banana layer.

And then the toffee. Its a bit difficult to spread it out.

Another nice job :P

Now for the whipped cream. I love these soft peaks.

And lastly, the grated chocolate. I would like to add that I've made this pie a few times more and instead of grated chocolate I used chocolate curls, it looks prettier.

Chill it, and its ready to be eaten. Though I felt it was easier to handle after being left in the fridge overnight. Once its thoroughly set, you can remove it from the tin to a plate, but you have to be very careful as the biscuit layer cracks easily, but what the hell, it doesn't affect the taste! Dig in or see it disappear before your eyes!

Update: I just came across this amazing site, videojug, and they have a video on how to make Banoffee Pie, and two things they did different from me was that they didn't press down the biscuit crumbs very compactly, it was rather loose, which will make it easier to slice the pie, and they boiled the condensed milk only for two hours, which means its lighter colour, softer, and
spreads much more easily, though it will be be probably less caramel-y. I think another good idea would be to melt some chocolate and make a base of that, so that the biscuit crumbs get confined!


Monday, 15 October 2007

Delicious tomato tart

This tomato tart from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook has fast become one of my favorite things to bake. Tomatoes, garlic and basil --- one of the best combos in the world. But it really isn't something to make too often -- unless you're trying to put on weight, it is very, very buttery! I made this twice in Ramadan, it was perfect for breaking the fast and I got to use up my delicious black tomatoes the second time.
The recipe is on Martha's website too, though the one in the book calls for 3 oz fontina, not 2. And one head of garlic would have someone calling the fire station, 4-5 large cloves are more than enough on a 7 inch (I can never get the pastry to fit on a 10-inch pan, and I haven't gotten around to getting 8 or 9 inchers). Actuallythe crust isn't super thick at all, and i think it would be soggy if it were any thinner.
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Thursday, 11 October 2007

a tottering pile of sugar..

Sugar Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F.
Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda.
Cream sugar and butter till light and fluffy. Blend in the eggs and vanilla. Mix well. Add the flour, again mix well. Chill the dough for two hours.
Roll out the dough approx 1/8 inch thick and cut out shapes and place on a cookie sheet. Or make small balls with your palm and place them on a cookie sheet and press, which is what I did.
Bake for 5-8 minutes, or until the cookies are barely browned at the edges.

Mix together 1/2 cup sifted confectioners' sugar and 1 tablespoon milk. Spread on cookies, sprinkle with nonpareils.

Fun fact: I adapted the recipe I came across on a cookie sheet cover.

Next I plan to either add chocolate chips to them or make plain ones and sandwich then with chocolate. Whatever, I will surely post it here!


Sunday, 7 October 2007

Lemon Yogurt Cake

I came across this recipe from Orangette at Happy Home Baker's, and since we just got a new oven after days and days of burnt cake :( I was quite excited to try something new. And somehow I decided upon this. And it was well worth the little effort it required. Very simple indeed, the batter is pretty oily and flat but it rose remarkably well for such a batter. I was pleased! Though I didn't know I would have to turn the cake halfway through baking and therefore the huge smile, but I still like it. I love the colour, We had quite forgotten this hue with our old oven, whose temperature regulator had gone bonkers, about time too, after two and a half decades of service!


Monday, 1 October 2007

someone's been at work...

And it's this little chap! And no I have no fascination for spiders as such, rather I dont like them, (creepy-crawly), but we all were fascinated with this one and his huge web!

...and he doesnt even get tired. This web is basically between the madhumalti (Quisqualis Indica) you can see dangling and the banisters of a staircase, and since there are flower pots on each step of the staircase and upstairs, the chap who waters the plants keeps removing his web, but this chap strikes back :P

and its got this really funny backside, onion shaped with two orangish eyes and a smiling face! Maybe it's to lure insects!