Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Treats - Part I : Plum Cake

Its that time of the year, when you bake n bake until you drop, and that's exactly what I did :))

While in the US, I used to love the holiday season. Everywhere you go, you see christmas lights..switch on the radio, hear those wonderful chrismtas carols...switch on the tv (used to love watching food network shows during the holidays) - you see chefs baking cookies, cakes, pies, puddings and so on....I did miss that festive spirit here in bangalore.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all!

Plum cake:


All purpose flour - 1 cup
Baking powder - 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg powder - 1/4 tsp
Cloves powder - 1/4 tsp
Dry Ginger powder - 1/4 tsp
Raisins - 1/4 cup
Dates - 1/4 cup
Plum, Cherry, Cranberry, Tutti Frutti - 1/4 cup
Gold Rum - 1/4 cup(optional)
Cashewnuts(chopped) - 1/2 cup
Butter - 1/4 pound/4 oz/1 stick
Sugar - 1 cup
Sugar - 1/4 cup (To make caramelized sugar)
Eggs - 3
Salt - 1 tsp
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Almond extract - 1/4 tsp


Slice the dried fruits and coat them with 2 tbsp of flour. Mix the fruits with rum and keep this closed at room temperature for one day. Chop cashews and smear them with almond extract and keep them also closed for one day. Next day,sieve flour, baking powder, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder, cloves powder and dry ginger powder together. Add fruits, nuts to the flour and mix well.

Caramelizing sugar:

Use a heavy-bottom steel pot or saucepan with a handle. Place 1/4 cup sugar(distribute sugar in pan,not heaped) in the pot and add 2 tablespoon water. Turn the stove to high and place the pan on the stove and let it boil. Don’t stir the contents at all. As sugar melts and caramelizes, you may swirl the pan a bit once or twice. Within 7 -10 minutes, a cherry wood colored caramel forms. See that all sugar is melted completely.Remove the pan from the stove and very carefully add 1/4 cup HOT water to the caramel. Carefully hold the pan above the sink, and slowly add the water to avoid splashing. Stir the contents well . Keep aside to cool.

Beat the butter and sugar and until it is creamy. Add the egss, one at a time, and beat until combined. Add vanilla and caramelized sugar to this and mix again. Add flour ,a little a time,to the batter and mix thoroughly.

Grease a pan and line with parchment paper. Pour batter till half the pan and bake in a preheated oven at 350F for about 35-40 minutes. (please check after 30 minutes. Cooking time depends on the oven used and the depth of the pan)
Remove the cake from the oven and place it on a cooling rack. When cool, smear with 2 tsp of rum. Cover the cake completely with wax paper and then with aluminum foil. Keep in the refrigerator. Use after a week or two.

Serves 6

NOTE: The cake can be made without rum - it still tastes delicious with all the fruits and nuts.

Holiday Treats - Part II : Pistachio Almond Biscotti


3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 lemon zest
2 large eggs
2/3 cups slivered almonds
1/3 cup shelled pistachio nuts
1/4 tsp anise extract or 1 tbsp anise seeds


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Beat the butter and sugar on medium speed until combined, about 1 minute. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and lemon zest and beat just until combined. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating well. Add the anise extract and mix until combined. Add the nuts and mix with a spatula. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a 12-inch-long log. Transfer the log to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool for about 30 minutes.

Using a serrated knife, cut the log on the diagonal into 1/2 -inch-thick slices. Place the biscotti cut side up on the lined baking sheet and bake for an additional 14 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Cool completely on a wire rack. Store the biscotti in an airtight container.

Makes 30 cookies