Thursday, December 26, 2013

Panforte

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”
―     Henry Wordsworth Longfellow

 
If you are wondering what Panforte is, then let me tell you it is nothing but fruit cake. Yes. Panforte is the Italian version of fruit cake. Panforte literally means "strong bread". This medieval confection dates back to 13th century. This nougat like cake is much more than a confection. It is a traditional fruit cake that is packed with dried fruits, nuts, spices, honey sugar and in my case, golden syrup as well. There is flour, but only very little, as it is used to bind the other ingredients.


In this cake, the sugar and honey is cooked together and then mixed with the fruits and nuts mixture. This process gives this Christmas cake a candy like texture. Since this cake has a long shelf life, this makes a great edible gift. This flavor pack confection is quite addictive and hard to resist. Sink your teeth into this heavenly confection and I assure you, you will not be able to stop at one bite. Merry Christmas!!!


Panforte recipe:
Preparation time: 1-1/ 2 hour
Baking time: 35-40min
Makes at least 30-35 cubes
Ingredients:
Mixed nuts (I used cashews, almonds and pistachios) - 3-1/2 cups, toasted and roughly chopped.
Figs-1/3 cup, roughly chopped
Dates- 1/3 cup, chopped
Raisins- 2/3 cup
Prunes- 10, chopped
Apricot- 1/3 cup
Mixed peel- 200gms
All purpose flour- 1-1/2 cups or 360gm
Cocoa powder 2tbsp
Cinnamon powder- 1tspn
Ginger powder- 1 tspn
Cloves- 3-4' powdered
Finely grated nutmeg- 1/4 tsp
Freshly found black pepper powder- a pinch
Sugar- 1-1/4 cups, powdered
Honey-1/3 cup
Golden syrup- 1/3 cup
Icing sugar to dust (optional)



Method:
  • Grease and line 9"baking with a baking sheet and set aside.
  • Combine the nuts, figs, dates, raisins, prunes, apricots, mixed peel, flour, cocoa powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger powder, pepper powder and mix till well combined.
  • Combine the sugar, honey and golden syrup in a thick bottomed pan and cook over medium heat  stirring occasionally. Until the sugar is dissolved.
  • Continue to boil the mixture for another ten minutes more till the mixture reaches the "soft ball stage".
  • Remove the sugar syrup from the heat and pour it over the fruit and nut mixture and mix well till all the ingredients are well combined. It will be sticky and gooey  batter.
  • Scrape the batter to the prepared pan and using a spatula spread the batter evenly into the pan and bake in the preheated oven for 35-40min or till a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Allow the panforte to cool in the wire rack for 10min before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
  • Cut the panforte into cubes and serve immediately or store in air tight containers. This sweet treat tastes best after several days as it matures with time.
Notes:
  • If  golden syrup is not available it can be replaced with equal quantity of honey.
  • As long as you stick to the original volume of fruits and nuts you can vary them as you like. You can use hazelnuts, or pine nuts as well. Even the spices can be varied as well. You can use coriander powder or white pepper powder.
  • This cake can  be baked in an 8" round pan and it can be cut into wedges.
  • To check if the sugar syrup has reached the soft ball stage, drop a small spoonful of syrup in a bowl of  cold water. Bring the solidified syrup out of the water with you hands. If you are able to form a soft flexible ball, then the sugars syrup is ready to be used.
  •  

Friday, December 20, 2013

The best Eggless carrot cake


I know i have been missing from action for a couple of days now. The past few days has been hectic, exciting, tiring and fun filled. The past few days has been so exciting, simply because it is that time of the year. The time for Christmas, The time to end 2013 and welcome 2014 and the time for our annual trip to India. Oh yes!!! I am all set for Bangalore and I can't tell you how happy and excited I am. The mere thought is seeing my mom, grand mom, baby sis, my niece and my in laws fills me with joy!!

The past few days were spent in fever of anticipation . There was a lot planning, a lot of shopping and a lot more baking done. It seemed like my oven never went cold. I baked ginger biscuits and the Italian Panforte to be given away as edible gifts (the recipe will be posted soon). Apart from these, I also baked this carrot cake. 




To me, this cake is one of the best cakes I have baked so far. For an eggless version, this cake is incredibly moist and light. I have made this cake quite a few times now and each time, I have got rave reviews. This dessert gets it sweetness from the carrots and condensed milk and lightly spiced with the flavor of cinnamon. I feel that the use of cinnamon lifts the flavor quotient of the cake to a large extent. 




I know that some carrot cake enthusiasts swear by the cream cheese frosting to go with the cake. But I some how prefer the whipped cream. I feel that the whipped cream frosting does not overshadow the taste of the cake and allows the flavors of the cake to shine through. But honestly speaking, this baked goodie does not need any frosting. The can be savored whilst warm by sprinkling some icing sugar on top. 


So if you are looking for a delicious, eggless and relatively healthy cake this holiday season, then this cake is the one!!


Carrot cake recipe:
Preparation time- 30min
Baking time: 35min
Makes- 1, 8" cake

Ingredients:
All purpose flour- 2 cups or 480ml
Baking powder- 1 tsp
Powdered cinnamon- 1 tsp
Baking soda- 1/2tsp
Salt- a pinch
Butter- 6tbsp, melted
Sweetened condensed milk- 1 tin or 14 Oz
Finely grated carrot- 1 cup
Ground almonds- 1/2cup
Thick butter milk- 1/2 cup
vinegar- 1tsp
Toasted and slivered almonds to decorate (optional)

For the whipped cream frosting:
whipping cream- 1/2 cup, chilled
Castor sugar- 3tbsp
A dash of vanilla essence.



Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease an 8"cake pan with butter and line with baking sheet.
  • Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Toss the grated carrot and ground almonds and keep aside.
  • In another bowl, combine the melted butter, condensed milk, butter milk and vinegar and mix till the mixture is light
  • Fold in the flour mixture into the butter milk mixture and mix till well combined.
  • Add two tbsp of water if you feel the mixture is dry.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and bake in the preheated oven for 30-35min or till  an inserted skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow the cake to cool in the pan for five min before transferring the cake to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the whipped cream frosting:
  • Combine the whipping cream, sugar and vanilla in a chilled bowl and beat till soft peaks form.
  • Spread the frosting over the cake and serve immediately.

Notes:
  • I sifted the flour first and then measured.
  • You can omit the frosting completely and serve the cake warm with icing sugar on top.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mango and Tapioca pudding- An easy dessert recipe


S and I celebrated our anniversary on the 30th of November. Yup. A little over seven years ago we were married in a beautiful three day long religious ceremony. I can't believe that Seven years have passed since that day. These past seven years has been nothing but an out and out joy ride. In all these years, S and I have shared love, laughter, pain, success, failures and a special bond that cannot be put into words. 


To me S has been more than just a husband. He has been that friend who is always encouraging and supporting in whatever I did. He has been my strength when I was weak and my rock during hard time. I love him for the caring and selfless person that he is.



What I love about our relationship is that, we get excited about all the same things. Small things like, a good cup of morning coffee, masala dosa, christmas fruit cake, Amitabh Bachchan, dark chocolates and laughter. Oh yes!! There are times when we laugh without any reason and we laugh till our stomachs hurt. We are so alike and yet different in all the right ways. S is certainly more selfless than I deserve. All through these years he has been my best friend and I feel blessed to have a soul mate like him.


Since kheer is one S's favorite desserts, I decided to commemorate the occasion by making tapioca pudding. Only this time, I decided to give the traditional kheer a tropical twist by adding mango puree. The result was just phenomenal. A rich and creamy sauce contrasts perfectly with the texture of soft tapioca pearls. This dessert is bursting with the flavor of mango and is laced with the subtle fragrance of cardamom. It is hard to believe that some thing as luxurious and as rich tasting as this kheer can be put together in 20min flat. Talk about fool proof recipes. Serve this dessert chilled for a wholesome tropical treat.


Mango and Tapioca pudding
Preparation time: 15min+ 15mins of soaking time
Cooking time: 15min
Serves- 6-8

Ingredients:
Tapioca pearls- 200gms
Mangoes- 2, peeled and chopped into chunks
Milk- 750ml
Coconut milk- 120ml
Sugar- 16tbsp or to taste
Cardamom- 6-8 pods, crushed to a fine powder
Slivered almonds and pistachios for garnish


Method:
  • Wash the tapioca pearls in enough water. Drain and let the pearls stand for 15min.
  • Add about 200ml of water and bring the tapioca to a boil. When the peals turn transparent, take off the heat and allow the tapioca pearls to cool completely.
  • In a blender jar, combine the mango chunks, milk, coconut milk and sugar and blend to a fine puree.
  • Transfer the mango-milk mixture to another bowl and stir in the cardamom powder and cooked tapioca and mix well.
  • Chill the pudding for at least 2hours in the refrigerator before serving.
  • Serve the pudding in individual bowls with slivered almonds and pistachios on top.
Note:

  • Chopped mangoes can be used to garnish the pudding instead of the nuts.
  • The mangoes can be replaced with pine apple or raspberries.
  • For a vegan version, substitute the milk with almond milk.


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