Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rich Christmas Fruit Cake with Garam Masala / Kerala Plum Cake

Slowly and eventually we have reached at the end of 2014. it's the time to look back and reflect on our favorite moments, also to look forward with new hope and wishes. As some wise man said, 'Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one". It's been a good year for us. We finally visited India after two years of gap, which were being cancelled or postponed for a while. We had fun with our near and dear ones, both at home and abroad. Thanks to my San Diego friends for inviting to many memorable parties and get-togethers.  When it comes to my blog, I received huge appreciations and love from my readers. So my sincere thanks to all of you who made my year so colorful and exciting. 

During the last month I baked several types of Christmas Cake and cookies following different recipes.  Few of them are for our tea time snacks and others were for the parties in our friend's places. Both me and my family love to have these cakes. The Christmas time is a great excuse for preparing and having cakes. Today I will share the recipe of a Christmas Cake that I tried first time this season. What is special about this cake is that I have added garam masala with the traditional method of making a Rich Fruit Cake. The combination makes it more delicious. There was a time at our home on the Christmas day when my mom used to prepare a cake with the small electric cake oven and everybody used to be so delighted when it came out of the kitchen. I can't recall its taste now but can remember the smell which used to make the whole house aromatic. Other than that, Christmas in our childhood was not complete without orange and the Fruit Cake ordered from Park Street's bakery Shops. 

Christmas cake is a tradition that started way back in nineteenth century. Originally people used to eat a type of porridge on Christmas Eve. After a day's of fasting on Christmas Eve, it was the dish to fill their stomachs. Gradually people added dried fruit, spices and honey to the porridge mixture together. Christmas cakes are made in different shapes with frosting, glazing, a dusting of confectioner's sugar or plain. There are different variations with very little difference in the process. Christmas cakes are generally made in advance. Many people make the cake in November and keep it up side down in an airtight container, Then they poke the cake and brush it with sherry or whisky every week until Christmas. Interestingly the method is called "feeding" the cake. 

Recipe of Rich Christmas Fruit Cake with Garam Masala / Kerala Plum Cake ( one 8 inch round cake )

Ingredients :

Unsalted butter : 1 stick and 1/2 stick, at room temperature 
Brown Sugar or white sugar : 1 cup and 1/2 cup 
Eggs : 3
vanilla extract : 1 teaspoon 

All purpose flour : 2 cups
Salt : a pinch
Baking Powder : 1 teaspoon

Mixed dry fruits ( dates, cherries, orange peel, cranberries, tutti fruity ) : 1 cup
Chopped Cashew nuts, black raisins : 1/2 cup
Rum : 1/2 cup ( optional )

Spice mix ( garam masala )

Cinnamon : 1 inch
Cloves : 2
Cardamom : 2 
Grated nutmeg : a pinch

Method :

1. Chop all the dry fruits, raisins add rum to it. Cover and let it soak for a day or two and give stirs a few time during the day.

2. In a dry grinder, take the whole spices and grind it into a powder. Keep it aside.

3. Take a pan, add 1/2 cup of sugar and melt it slowly on medium heat. Keep stirring and let it change color into deep dark brown. Turn off the heat and add 1/4 cup of water. The sugar will harden. Turn on the heat again. Slowly heat it up until the mixture dissolves. It will take 5 to 8 minutes. Once done, set it aside. 

4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F / 180 degrees C.

5. Sieve the flour, baking powder, salt and powdered spice mix. 

6. Take a mixing bowl, add butter and 1 cup of sugar and beat it until it becomes fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time and beat again. Add vanilla extract and mix it. Gradually add the flour mixture and beat until incorporated. 

7. Add the fruits and nuts, add the caramel and gently fold in. 

8. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan and decorate the top with almonds. Bake for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

9. Remove from the oven and let it cool down on a wire rack. Once it is at room temperature remove from it from the pan and dust with icing sugar.

Note :

Use Rum only if you like your cake to have a boozy flavor,  Otherwise make it alcohol free. You may make the cake a month ahead and keep it up side down in an airtight container, Then poke the cake and brush it with rum / sherry or whisky every week until Christmas. 

You can serve the cake the day it is baked, better it is stored a day or two before serving, it helps to mingle the flavors.

You can cover and store this cake for about one week at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fried Hand Pies ( sweet and savory )

Very happy Christmas to all of my readers. Hope you have planned a grand celebration of this festive season with your family. These days I have become bit irregular but this time you can't blame my laziness. My laptop had a major technical issue and couldn't do any work until I bought a new one on cyber Monday. Hope I would be more consistent from now on. 

In last couple of weeks, I prepared few recipes in my draft but confused which one to share first. After giving some thought, I chose to share a quiet uncommon snack / dessert recipes that is called Fried Hand pies. 

Fried pies is a common southern specialty. These handmade, crescent-shaped, fruit-filled pastries are very popular in the South and are usually found at church picnics, crossroads country shops. It's a very common scene for the people from south that their moms and grandmas are serving fried pies by the dozens for church suppers and family gatherings. A fried pie is just the perfect size snack, compact and neat. 

The fat and crisp, half-moon shaped chewy dough is filled with spiced and cooked apples. The other traditional fillings is dried peaches. They can be filled with just about anything and fry up in just a few minutes. Try filling them with other fruits or something savory like taco meat, cooked up mushrooms and onions, or cooked sausage. These pies can be made days, weeks, even months ahead of time. 

When I came across to this recipe couple of months back, it was completely new to me. When I decided to make a fried pies, started experimenting with the filling, adding one ingredient or taking away another. I made dough at home and blended with the correct types of apples. Cooked them all together and then put the filling inside the dough. At the end I fried the pies and cooled them down. I served them in a Christmas potluck party with my neighbors and everybody really loved the crispness and taste of the pies.  

Recipe of Fried Hand Pies ( sweet and savory ) for 18 pieces 

Ingredients :

For Dough :

All purpose flour : 2 1/2 cup
Salt : 1/2 teaspoon 
Sugar : 2 teaspoons 
Shortening : 1/4 cup, chilled and cut into pieces
Unsalted Butter : 1 and 1/2 stick, cold and diced  
Ice water : 6 to 7 tablespoons 

For Sweet filing :

Apples : 2, peel, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
Sugar : 1/4 cup or to taste
Cinnamon powder :1/8 teaspoon 
Lemon juice : 1 teaspoon
Butter : 1 teaspoon

For Savory :

Potatoes : 2, peel and cut into 1/2 inch cubes, boiled
Salt : to taste
Ground pepper : to taste
Butter : 1 teaspoon

Oil for frying 

Method :

1. Combine the four, sugar and salt together, you can use food processor or mix it with hand. Add the shortening and butter and mix it until the mixture looks like coarse breadcrumbs. Add the ice water, one tablespoon at a time and mix it nicely until the mixture comes together. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

2. For the sweet filing : Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the apples to it. Saute the apples, stir it until it become soft. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Cook it until some of the apple pieces start to break apart. Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and stir in. 

3. For the savory filling, add butter to a pan and heat it up. Add the boiled potato pieces and stir it. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely. 

4. Take a deep frying pan and add oil. Heat it up to 365 degrees F. Roll the dough 1/8 inch thick. Cut out eighteen circles. Place 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each circles. Make a half-moon shape and press out and seal the edges by using fork. Repeat the same for remaining dough. 

5. Fry 3 to 4 pies at a time until the both sides become golden brown. Transfer to a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Sprinkle powered sugar and serve warm.