I then went ahead and put my spin on Ammini’s recipe. I didn’t have the time to make my own candied peel but had some excellent candied fruit on hand and decided to use them instead. I used unsweetened orange juice instead of rum/ brandy and used Ammini’s method of cooking the fruit and nuts in it instead of the month long soaking usually followed for this cake. I used golden raisins as we don't really likes the black ones which can be tart. The Afghani/ Irani greenish brown varieties are the best and are very sweet.
I also added cardamom to the spice mix which is not usually done. I cut down on the butter a bit because I get my butter in 100gm slabs. I used light brown sugar in my cake and cut down on the quantity a bit because sweetness of the candied fruit and the applesauce.
The 4 eggs in the original recipe was an issue for me this could mean a possible “eggy” smell or taste in the cake, especially as I wasn't using alcohol which would otherwise mask that. Replacing all the 4 eggs in a recipe is not easy without affecting the texture of the cake. So I decided to replace 2 of the eggs with fresh apple purée and use only the whites of 2 eggs as these were beaten well and then folded into the batter at the end, to provide lightness to a normally dense cake. I also added a 1/2 tsp of baking soda to the recipe.
I got the best fruit cake I have ever eaten (remember, I don’t like fruit cake?). It tasted great, was moist yet lighter than the average more dense fruit cake. It had a nice crumb yet was firm enough to slice easily. This cake is a keeper and is going to be the one I bake every time I need to make a Christmas fruit cake.
Kerala Style Christmas Fruit Cake (Plum Cake)
(Adapted from Ammini Ramachandran )
For the soaked fruit:
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 cup pitted and chopped dates
1/4 cup candied papaya
1/8 cup candied pineapple
1/8 cup candied ginger
1 cup unsalted cashew nuts
1/4 cup unsweetened orange juice
For the caramel sauce:
6 tbs of granulated sugar
3 tbsp water
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup boiling water
2 cups of flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
200gm salted butter (or unsalted butter + 1/2 tsp salt)
1 1/2 cups powdered light brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened apple purée (or applesauce)
2 egg whites
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp powdered nutmeg
1/4 tsp powdered cloves
1/4 tsp powdered dry ginger
3 pods cardamom, powdered
1 tsp vanilla extract
Prepare the fruit first. Chop the dates and candied fruits and cashewnuts (roughly to the size of the raisins), put them in a saucepan in a saucepan and add the orange juice to this. Cook the fruit, over low heat, until the liquid starts steaming. Stir frequently and let the fruit and nuts cook until all the orange juice has almost been absorbed completely. Take it off the heat and allow it to cool down.
Next, make the caramel sauce. Place the granulated sugar in a pan. Add 3 tbsps water and the tsp of lemon juice. Mix lightly with a spoon. Place the saucepan on high heat and allow the sugar and water to start boiling/ bubbling. Do not stir but you may tilt the pan a bit a couple of times to let the melted sugar spread out. Let the sugar melt and caramelize to a golden brown (do not burn it). Take it off the heat and it will start darkening. Carefully pour the 1/4 cup boiling water (it will spit and splutter) into the caramel and stir with a spoon. Place the caramel sauce back on the stove and just bring it to a boil. Then take it off the heat and keep aside.
Now prepare the cake batter. Put the soft butter in a big bowl and beat, with an electric beater, till fluffy. Add the powdered sugar and beat, on slow speed, till combined. Keep aside about 1/3 cup of the flour aside and sieve together the remaining flour, baking powder and baking soda. Add this to the bowl along with all the powdered spices. Mix well (do not beat too much), using the beater on slow speed, until combined.
Sprinkle the 1/3 cup reserved flour on the cooled fruit and nuts and mix with a spoon so the fruit is well coated with the flour. Add this, the vanilla extract and the warm caramel sauce to the batter and mix with a wooden spoon till combined.
Beat the egg whites to soft peaks, in another clean bowl, and gently fold this into the batter till well incorporated. Pour the batter into two medium greased and lined/ floured loaf or cake tins (I used a 7” round tin and a medium loaf tin. Bake the cakes at 170C (325F) for about 1 to 1 1/4 hours or till a skewer comes out clean, when it is inserted into the centre. Ensure the cake is well baked.
Let the cakes cool in the tins for about 15 minutes, then gently unmould and cool on a rack. You can serve the cake immediately but it does taste even better the next day. Cover the cake with waxed paper and then foil before storing or the cake will dry out.
And The Giveaway!
It is the season for giving and perhaps the perfect time for me to giveaway two more books. Sellers Publishing were kind enough to send me extra copies to giveaway to my readers, along with my review copies.
The first book I’m giving away is “” by Sheryll Bellman. Sheryl Bellman is the also the author of Through The Shopping Glass and America’s Great Delis. Passionate about food and food history writing, she has written for many magazines and been featured on NPR. She lives in New York City and attributes her interest in deli culture to growing up in corned beef deprived Arizona!
America’s Little Italys is not just another cookbook with Italian food recipes but much more than that. It is based on the Italian-American immigrant experience, their food cultural history and the founding of Little Italys as their neighbourhoods are referred to, in various parts of the US. The book makes for good reading with nostalgic write-ups, beautiful black and white photographs full of old world charm as well as Italian family restaurant recipes. The book invites you to a celebration of the Italian immigrant past in the US through the stories of the beginnings and evolution of many modern-day Italian restaurants across 14 major cities in the US. Some of the cities covered are New York City (including Brooklyn and The Bronx), Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, San Francisco, San Diego and New Orleans.
Also included are over recipes from over 80 modern-day Italian restaurants, which have been handed down the generations and many of which are their signature dishes. The book also has lots of interesting historical information which tells us that the first Espresso machine was made in France and the first industrial pasta machine in the US was built by a Frenchman in Brooklyn. He apparently dried his strands of spaghetti in the sunshine on his roof!
I cooked the Mona Lisa Pasta Primavera (from the Mona Lisa Italian Restaurant and Deli, San Diego) and the Chicago Style Pizza (from Tony Nitti’s Bar-B-Que, Chicago) and have to say they were very good. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take any pictures to tempt you with.
You can see the book in a little detail here .
The other book I’m giving away is “” by Roberta Muir, which is a guide to cheeses from around the world. Roberta Muir has an educational background in gastronomy, is a trained cheese judge, a food writer, a restaurant reviewer and manages the Sydney Seafood School.
500 Cheeses is a part of the 500 Series of books from Sellers Publishing. As is the case with the other books in this series, it is a well organised and presented book with beautiful pictures and also has a page on how to use the book. This book de-mystifies the world of cheese and begins with an introduction to cheeses, then goes on to explain how cheese is made with advice on how to select store and serve cheese.
The book is further divided in to chapters on Fresh Cheeses, Stretched-Curd Cheeses, Bloomy Rind Cheeses, Washed Rind Cheeses, Semi-Soft Cheeses, Blue-Veined Cheeses and Semi-Hard & Hard Cheeses. Each entry begins with a flag of the country from which it comes, and then includes description its history, characteristic appearance, texture and flavour. There is also some information on its available sizes, affinage and tasting notes as well as food and beverage pairing.
I would have liked it even better if there were a couple of recipes using the cheeses in the book, but I guess that is asking too much for a book of this size. This is definitely a book you want on your cookbook shelf if you love cheese.
You can see this book in some detail here .
I will be giving away a copy of the above books to two randomly selected lucky readers. If you would like to try your luck at winning one of these books, all you have to do is to leave a comment at this post telling me what your favourite Italian food and/ or cheese is. Yes, that’s all you have to do.
I will keep this giveaway open till the 7th of January, 2011 as I know many of you would be busy with the festive season and not be able to get here to leave a comment till later. This giveaway is open to everyone who cares to leave a comment here (Bloggers and non-bloggers are welcome, both Indian and international) as I will ship the books anywhere in the world.