Nov 20, 2013

Christmas Fruit Cake

 Jingle bells, jingle bells,
  Jingle all the way.
  Oh! what fun it is to ride
  In a one-horse open sleigh.
                          Year will end soon, but before the year ends, we all can enjoy Christmas. Its November end and its just almost a month is left for Christmas.In India, even if you are not Christian, all the people enjoy Christmas plum cake. You will find the Christmas plum cake everywhere, right from local bakeries to high end patisseries.I am not greatly fond of plum cake, but most of my family members and friends love the cake. So, bowing to their wishes, I am going indulge you in this journey of making Christmas plum cake.
                                 But if you ask me, why am i talking about baking the cake so soon.Its best to make Christmas cake a few months before the big day, two months is good. The reason for making it so early is that the flavors of all the dried fruits baked together with the spices, eggs,  flour butter etc has time to mature. Then we ware going to fed our Christmas cake at regular intervals with a little brandy or rum. This boozy feeding of the cake is what is going to give us a deep, moist, rich-flavored cake. So,lets get going. However, even if you are late and make your cake last minute it will still taste good.

A)  For the cake:
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour/maida
  • 1 tsp baking pwd
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon pwd
  • 1/4 tsp clove pwd
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom pwd
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg pwd
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped prunes
  • 200 ml orange juice
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
  • 1 tsp orange rind
B)Preparing dried fruits:
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup currants
  • 1/2 cup cranberries
  • 1/2 cup chopped cashews
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/4 cup cherries
  • 1/4 cup tutti frutties
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg pwd
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon pwd
  • 1/4 tsp clove pwd
  • 3/4 cup dark rum
  • 1/2 cup red wine
Preparing dried fruits:
              I prepared dried fruits two weeks ahead before baking. Finally chop all the dried fruits and nuts and soak in enough dark rum and red wine in a large jar such that half of the jar is filled. There should be enough room in the jar once the fruits and rum are added, as they will almost double in size. Secure cap tight and keep away for at least a minimum of 24 hours. You can make this a year ahead, 2-3 months ahead or even a week before baking the cake. Do shake the jar once in a while. Longer the fruits steep, better the flavor.

  • Grease the 8 inches cake tin and line with parchment paper. Tie a double band of brown or newspaper paper around the outside and Stand the tin on a double layer of newspaper on the middle rack. Why??? Because the Christmas cake contains a lot of sweet, dried fruits and sugar and cooking of the cake takes over 1- 1 1/2 hours. Wrapping the cake tin, as standing the cake tin on a double layer of newspaper protects the bottom and sides of the cake and prevents it cooking too quickly and more importantly, burning during the long slow cooking.

  • Chop the dates and prunes and place in a pan. pour over orange juice, butter, brown sugar, spices,honey, lemon rind, orange rind and  presoaked fruits and let it simmer for 10 mins. Remove from pan and let it cool to room temperature.
  • Grate the yellow lemon rind on grater and just the orange rind of orange. Do not grate white pith underneath as it will impart bitterness.
  • Sift the all purpose flour, spices and baking powder in a large bowl .Add the presoaked dried fruits and toss in flour mix so that flour coats all the dry fruits. This ensures that the fruits are well distributed in the cake. If you skip this step, the fruits will settle down at the bottom of cake.
  • Separate egg yolks from the whites. In a separate bowl, whisk egg yolks with dates and prunes mixture.
  • Fold the flour, dry fruit mix to egg yolk date prune mix.
  • Whisk egg whites till it forms peaks and gently fold into the cake batter till well combined
  • Pour batter up to half of the prepared cake tins and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180C for 1 hour. Keep watch after 50 minutes.You will need to bake the cake somewhere between 1 hour to 1 1/2 hour till the cake is brown and when you insert a knife in the center of cake, it should come through clean

  • Once done, poke holes in it with a skewer and spoon over 2 tbsp of brandy/ rum. Leave the cake to cool completely in the tin on a wire rack for 15 min before removing the cake from the tin and carefully peel the paper.
  • When completely cold, wrap well in cling film and foil to store until ready to decorate. The cake will keep for several months.
Feeding the cake:
 Feed the cake with 1-2 tbsp alcohol every 3 days, until a few days before x-mas.  This will give your cake a full festive flavor and also avoid the cake drying out. It’s also worthwhile to turn your cake over periodically to prevent the liquids gathering at the bottom of the cake, do this maybe once every few weeks if the base is becoming saturated.  You want the cake moist but not dripping.

For Non Alcoholic version: Use orange juice and rum essence to get the right flavor. .

Cake decorating:
  • You can simply dust the cake with icing sugar/ cocoa powder.Place some candied cherries. Sprinkle some golden dust and silver balls on them.
  • Cover the cake with marzipan and decorate.
  • Coat the cake with fondant and make fondant decorations. I have made fondant snowman, Santa Claus. I also placed some mini marshmallows to resemble snow heaps.
  • Icing the cake with royal icing: In a bowl, mix generous 1 cup icing sugar with 1-2 tsp water and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Pour over the top of cooled cake and sprinkle fresh lemon and orange zest. 
For Eggless version:
  Follow the instructions and mix presoaked dry fruits with dates and prune mixture. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Then add 2 tbsp vinegar to 1 cup milk. milk will start to curdle. No issues. Add 1 tsp baking soda. stir gently. And Phoosh,,, You will see the mixture starting to raise. Mix it immediately with the cake mix and place in preheated oven to bake. Do not waste anytime between placing teh cake min after your pour the baking soda on milk.

Nov 1, 2013

Fat Free Sweet Corn Chowder

                      Winter is near and almost here.. Winter to me means cozy blankets sipping a cup of warm soup and watching old classic movies. Its lazy wintery evening and you really dont feel like cooking dinner but you crave for something warm , hearty and tasty light meal.. Heres what you do....
                        Make yourself a large bowl of CHOWDER.. Whats a chowder????  Well, a simple dish of chowder, in the past considered to be "poor man's food," has a history that is centuries old. Vegetables or fish stewed in a cauldron thus became known as chowder in English-speaking nations, a corruption of the name of the pot or kettle in which they were cooked.
                      Here is my feeble attempt to make sweet corn chowder, thick soup of creamy rich sweet corn served in a sour dough bread. If you dont find sour dough bread ( which sadly is very difficult to find in India), serve the soup with slices of french loaf.
Serves 4
  • 4 sweetcorn cobs 
  • 4 cups of water
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 tbsp of semolina (rava)
  • 1 medium onion
  • salt n pepper to taste
  • Sourdough bread bowls

  • Remove corn kernels from cob by running a sharp knife from top to bottom of cob  
  • For soup stock, place the stripped corn cobs in a medium saucepan with 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil; reduce to simmer and cook cobs for 10 minutes. Remove cobs from pot and strain the liquid.
  • Put sweetcorn, onion, garlic and semolina in the food processor and whizz until it's a mush. It's okay if there are still a few whole kernels - a bit of texture is good.
  • Put the crushed sweetcorn mixture in large nonstick pan and add the corn stock. Bring it to boil, then turn down the heat and let the chowder simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes.
  • A tasty chowder perfect for a cold winter day. If your feeling adventurous buy some small sourdough boules of bread, scoop out the middle and serve the chowder inside the bread bowl. The bread soaks up the chowder that doesn't make it onto your spoon. The bread bowl is delicious and fun to eat!"