Friday, December 25, 2015

Tea fruit cake

"Christmas, Children, is not a date. But a state of mind"
  -Mary Ellen Chase


Finally!! Christmas is here. Over the years, I have come to love the holiday season!! There is a feeling of joy and hope everywhere!! Everyone seems to have a perpetual smile on their faces. And everyone, including me, is in the holiday mood. I seem to go around with a warm fuzzy feeling with a spring in my step and joy in my heart!!



Every year, we celebrate Christmas with our family in Bangalore. I used to bake loads of cookies, cakes and Panforte. But this year, we decided to visit Bangalore in the month of October. So this time, Christmas in our house is a subdued affair. I did bake the Ginger Bread cookies as Purvi wanted it. But I didn't bake the Panforte that I have been baking since past two years. I just didn't seem to have the energy to do all the cutting and chopping. However, a week back, I suddenly started having second thoughts. I felt that christmas would be incomplete without the traditional fruit cake. So I decided to bake this quick fruit cake that tastes almost like the real fruit cake.


This tea cake combines brewed tea along with mixed dried fruit and brown sugar to make this delicious cake. This dried fruits loaded cake gets the extra flavor and the moistness from the brewed tea. And the chai masala enhances the flavor of the cake to a large extent. Although this cake doesn't involve lot of preparation, it does involve overnight soaking of dry fruits. But that only helps to fuse the flavors better. 




This is not a hard and fast recipe. You can alter the recipe in many ways, to match your tastebuds.  You can use any dried fruit and tea of your choice. The chai masala can be replaced with all spice or a mixture cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. So if you are looking for a recipe that is quick, easy and adaptable then this recipe is just for you. It has sugar, spice and all those nice things that go into making the traditional fruit cake. These pretty cakes stay fresh for upto a week. So they can make great edible gifts as well!!
Merry Christmas Everyone!!!


Fruity tea cake:
Preparation time: 20min+soaking time
Baking time: 50-55min
Serves- 8

Ingredients:
Mixed dry fruits: 300gms (I used dates, dark raisins, golden raisins, mixed peel and some tutti fruity)
Brewed tea- 250ml* (see notes)
Dark brown sugar- 200gms
Chai or tea masala- 2tspns
Butter- 125gm
All purpose flour- 240ml
Baking powder- 1-1/2tspn
Salt- a pinch


Method:
  • Place the mixed dried fruit, Sugar, butter, tea and tea masala in a sauce pan. Cover and heat gently until the butter has melted, Stirring occasionally. 
  • Increase the heat and boil the mixture for a minute. Remove the pan from the heat set aside to cool. Cover and leave the mixture overnight at room temperature.
  • Sift the flour twice along with the salt and baking powder and set aside.
  • Fold the sifted flour into the fruit mixture. Spoon the chunky dough into a greased baking pan and level the surface with the back of the spoon. 
  • Bake the mixture for 50-55 in a pre-heated oven at 180C or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  • Remove the cake from the oven, then leave to cool completely in the pan. Turn out and serve in slices, spread with butter or honey, if you like.
Notes:
  • To make the brewed tea, boil 1-1/2tspn of tea leaves in 250ml of water. Strain and use accordingly.
  • You can use any dried fruits of your choice for this recipe
  • For a scented flavor, you can use equal quantities of earl grey or Lady grey tea.
  • If mixed peel is not available, you can replace it with a dried fruit of you choice and add grated zest of one orange.
  • The chai masala can be replaced with equal quantity of allspice.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Gingerbread cookies


Nothing screams Happy Holidays better than ginger bread cookies. There is something about these Spiced cookies. They simply fill the house and heart with festive spirits.


Purvi wanted me to bake the cookies since the time we brought these  cookie cutters. She not only wanted to bake them, but she wanted to decorate them with icing as well. I was touched by her enthusiasm but I wish I could share her spirit. It is simply because I am not very good with icing. My hands, that are so steady during other times tend to shake when I squeeze the piping bag. Straight lines end up crooked and curves end up looking lopsided. I simply don't understand how people can decorate cookies and cakes with those beautiful designs and patterns. My designs look more like a small child's irregular drawings. I prefer my cookies without any icing or decorations. It's simple fast and satisfies my sweet tooth perfectly!!!



But then, Purvi wanted her gingerbread cookies to be decorated. So I set aside a date for this ardrous task promised Purvi that we would bake and decorate ginger bread cookies on that day. I had bookmarked the eggless cookie recipe from allrecipes.com. However, as luck would have it, molasses, that was almost always available wasn't there when I needed it. Why are things always abound when you don't need them and when you do need them they are nowhere to be seen. I tried explaining to Purvi that ginger bread cookies couldn't be baked without molasses and that we would bake them on a later day. But she wouldn't hear any of it. "But you promised" she said with a crest fallen face.

I really wanted to bake the cookies but then how would I do it without molasses? I was thinking about it when I was suddenly hit by the idea of using jaggery syrup as a substitute for molasses. And within no time, we were baking gingerbread cookies.
I don't know about you, but we like our cookies a little crispy. Not rock hard. But I like them to have a crunch when you bite them. But if you are one of those who prefer your ginger bread cookies a little chewy, then you can bake them for a shorter duration.


In the end, Purvi and I had an absolute ball baking and decorating gingerbread cookies. Purvi helped me roll and cut the cookies with the cookies cutters and I ended up icing them. I struggled with it in the beginning but gradually got into the groove. Most of them weren't half as bad. And for someone with shaky hands, I must say that it was fairly satisfactory. 

Purvi said that the cookies tasted very good and she had the best day of her life. My girl is easy to please isn't she?

Gingerbread cookies recipe:
Preparation time: 40min
Baking time: 10-12min
Makes- approximately 5dozen cookies

Ingredients:
Grated Palm jaggery- 1cup
Water- 1/2cup
Butter- 1 cup or 16tbsp at room temperature
Icing sigar- 1 cup icing sugar
Salt- 1/2tsp
Baking soda- 1-1/2tsp
Baking Powder- 1/2tsp
Cinnamon powder- 1tsp
Ginger powder- 1tsp
Chai masala- 1/2tsp
All purpose flour- 4 cups (measured after sifting 3 thrice)
Milk- 2 tbsp

For the icing:
Icing Sugar- 6tbsp
Water- 1tbsp

Method:
  • Mix the palm jaggery and water in the thick bottomed sauce pan and bring the mixture to a boil on low heat. 
  • Once the jaggery dissolves and reaches single thread consistency, take off the heat and set aside to cool completely.
  • Combine the butter and sugar in a large bowl and whisk till light and fluffy. Stir in the salt, cooled jaggery syrup and whisk some more.
  • Add the baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon powder, dry ginger powder and the chai masala all purpose flour and the milk mix well with a spatula.
  • Divide the dough into four equal portions. Place one portion of the dough between two sheets of baking paper roll out into 1/4 inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut the dough into desired shapes and place them on a cookie sheet. Leave a gap of atlas two inches between them.
  • Collect the frills and shape them into a ball and reroll and repeat cutting out until all the dough is used up.
  • Chill the cut dough in the refrigerator for 10-15mins before baking in a preheated oven at 180C for 10min or until the undersides are golden brown.
  • Leave on the rack for 10min before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat the procedure with the rest of the dough.
For the icing:
  • Mix the icing sugar and water in a bowl and whisk till well blended.
  • Transfer the icing into a ziplock bag and cut a small hole in the corner. Pipe the icing over the cookies to decorate. Allow the icing to set for 20mins before storing the cookies in air tight containers.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sita Manohara- Mixed nuts halwa



OK. So this is the fourth dessert recipe in a row. But then one can't resist but post them as it is the holiday season. Besides that, who can resist a dessert which comes with the name "Sita Manohara" which literally means one how steals Godess Sita's heart that being Lord Rama. Isn't that fascinating?


I was introduced to this rich and scrumptious dessert by my cousins Bhushini and Renu. Both cousins, are accomplished High court Lawyers by profession. Apart from that, they are also great cooks. They can conjure amazing laddus, halwas and large batches of sun dried condiments. I first tasted this dessert when they had made a large batch of this dessert for a family get together. I took one bite of this warm dessert and I was smitten instantly. I decided that I would make this for our anniversary at that very instant.

This dessert is a mixture of almonds, cashews, walnuts, milk, sugar and clarified butter. I found this a little unusual. That's because, I had never made anything with walnuts as a main ingredient. Since my man is not a big fan of walnuts, I avoid buying them. So it came as a pleasant surprise when S loved this halwa.



So if you are looking for a scrumptious dessert for this holiday season, I suggest you give this warm dessert a try. I am sure this will become a part of your recipe repertoire.


Sita Manohara recipe:
Preparation time- 15min+soaking time
Cooking time- 40-50min
Serves- 6-8

Ingredients:
Almonds- 1cup or 100ml, blanched and peeled
Cashew nuts- 1 cup or 100ml, chopped
Walnuts- 1cup or100ml, chopped
Saffron- large pinch, soaked in 2tbspns of milk
Milk- 4 cups
Sugar- 3cups
Ghee- 2-1/2 cups
Chopped pistachios for garnish (optional)


Method:
  • Soak the peeled almonds, cashew nuts and walnuts in milk for atleast 5hrs or overnight.
  • Blend the soaked nuts in a blender to fine paste and set aside.
  • Heat half cup of ghee in a  thick bottomed skillet and add the ground paste, sugar and the saffron mixture and mix well and cook the mixture on medium flame.
  • Continue mixing so that the mixture does not stick to the bottom and burn.
  • Keep adding the ghee half cup at a time and continue the mixing till the mixture changes color and starts leaving the sides of the pan. This will take about 30-40min.
  • Once the mixture is cooked completely, take off the heat. Garnish with pistachios and serve warm.

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