Pina Colada Cheesecake

On Sunday we had such fun filled birthday celebrations in Bahamas! Or so I imagined, eating this Pina Colada Cheesecake that really made up for a few misses. Well, almost.2Its been a long time since I baked a cheesecake though there often is a demand for one. As we geared for the birthday in smoldering May, a coconut cheesecake seemed the best choice. A few splashes of rum and a few chunks of pineapple make everyone merry. Did I mention hidden chocolate chips in the rum cream topping? I was ready with the plan.1WP_20160529_08_54_22_ProThough we do get mascarpone here, it’s obscenely priced and I can’t bring myself to bake with an ingredient I wouldn’t be happy buying. Luckily, you can make your own mascarpone at home and that what I do. It tastes far better than the store bought and costs a fraction. Though it takes a bit of planning as making mascarpone at home takes two days, it’s totally worth the time. I suggest you make your own mascarpone and spend that hard earned money on that Ruby woo or Nymphette, or both. Making your own mascarpone can empower you in some ways.WP_20160530_17_50_03_Pro (2).jpgI believed that Pina Colada would be a great flavor to be translated into a cheesecake and I wasn’t wrong because it’s one of the most superlative cheesecakes I have baked, and is decadent at its best. Though I trust my gut feeling while choosing a flavor, it’s the smiles, hugs and kisses which really tell it all.3Homemade Mascarpone Cheese:
(Adapted from here)
Yields around 650 grams cheese

• 1 Liter amul cream (25% fat)
• 2 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Prepare a bain marie  large enough to hold the vessel you are going to pour your cream in. Bring water to simmer.
2. Empty the cream in a large heatproof vessel and place in bain marie. Heat the cream gently till it registers a temperature of 85° C.
3. Add the lemon juice and keep stirring the cream till it thickens and coats the spatula, 3-4 minutes.
4. Take the cream vessel out and cool it to room temperature. Chill cream for up to 24 hours. It will thicken further under refrigeration.
5. Spread layers of clean muslin cloth and empty the thickened cream into it. Hang it inside refrigerator for 24 to drain out whey.
6. Store tightly under refrigeration for up-to a week.

Pina Colada Cheesecake
(Adapted from here)
Makes a 9 inch round cheesecake

Ingredients:
For the Crust
• 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
• 3/4 cup digestive biscuits crumbs
• 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted, cooled
• 1/4 cup sugar

For the filling
• 680 grams cream cheese, room temperature
• 1 ½ cup sugar
• 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
• 3 tablespoons corn flour
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup canned cream of coconut, unsweetened
• 1/4 cup rum

For the topping
• 400 grams amul cream
• 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
• 2 tablespoons rum + a handful of chocolate chips (optional)
• Small chunks of freshly chopped pineapple

Bake the crust:
1. Preheat oven to 176° C. Brush 9-inch-diameter springform cake pan with 2.5-inch-high sides with 1 tablespoon melted butter. Line the pan with parchment paper; lightly brush paper with some of melted butter.
2. To roast coconut, scrape a fresh coconut and roast at 176° C for 7-10 minutes, tossing the coconut regularly till it turns very light golden. Cool and keep aside.
3. Blend crumbs, coconut, sugar, and remaining butter in a medium bowl. Press mixture tightly over bottom of prepared pan. Bake crust until lightly browned at edges, about 10 minutes. Cool. Reduce oven temperature to 150° C

Prepare the filling:
1. Using electric mixer, beat first 4 ingredients in large bowl until blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating for a whole minute before adding the next. Beat in cream of coconut and rum.
2. The batter will be thin. Gently pour batter over crust.
3. Place the pan on a big sheet of heavy duty aluminium sheet such that you get over-hangs above the edges. Secure the overhangs to make it a watertight contraption.
4. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough boiling water to roasting pan to come 1 inch up sides of cake pan.
5. Cover roasting pan with foil and bake cake 1 hour.
6. Remove foil. Bake until cake is pale brown, puffed, and just set in center, about 40 minutes#. Cool cake in water bath 2 hours. Remove from water; run knife around cake to loosen. Chill cake in pan for minimum 6 hours. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep chilled.)

#My cake took more than two hours at this step and I almost became impatient. A frantic google search enlightened me by the fact that it was alright to bake as long as the center was jiggling and that the baking time has a lot to do with the temperature inside the oven. Mine being an old equipment, took more than two hours but you really need to keep a check to avoid over-baking. The key is to turn off the oven when its still jiggling in the center and leave it in the water bath inside the oven where it will keep on setting with time.

For the topping:
1. Chill the amul cream at least for six hours. Remove the thickened cream in a bowl and discard the separated water. Add the confectioner’s sugar and beat gently to lighten the cream.
2. Add in the rum and beat once more. Mix in chocolate chips if using.
3. Spread over the cooled cheesecake and decorate with pineapple chunks and cherries.

Red Velvet Cake.

It was one of the best moments. It was like Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC) moment! I will tell you all about it, but first let’s have the cake!WP_20160511_12_12_54_ProSo, remember my last attempt for a Red Velvet Cake which turned into a one of the best chocolate cakes ever? But I wanted a Red Velvet Cake right? No, not just another Red Velvet Cake. I wanted one naturally colored with beetroot, not with synthetic food color. WP_20160511_11_12_29_Pro.jpgWhen I started to read about it, it came as a surprise that Red Velvet Cake is actually a chocolate cake. But the kind in which chocolate flavor floats just very lightly without showing up the color. The actual color comes either from beetroots or from red food color, but I had my own reasons for insisting on beetroots. There is no dearth of the recipes which use beets and truth be told, I tried at least three recipes but every time I had a chocolate-colored-chocolate-cake on hands. Something was surely not right and that something had to be fixed. And that something happened to be the pH of the cake batter which is very important if you are baking a Red Velvet Cake with beets. WP_20160511_15_08_49_Pro.jpgSo, to keep it short and simple, you need to provide lots of acidic ingredients when you are baking a Red Velvet Cake with beets. Vinegar, buttermilk, lemon juice, or even orange juice AND you should use just the baking powder and NOT BAKING SODA. The alkalinity of the baking soda turns the beautiful red color of beets to brown, while acidity helps to brighten up the red color. The roasted beets make the cake extremely moist, impart the beautiful red color and a rustic flavor to the cake. This cake is slightly on  a denser side. I opted for raspberry flavor to infuse the batter and some color coordination. Just joking, but it worked really well. Its different from a vanilla flavored cake in a pleasant way.WP_20160511_14_56_44_Pro.jpgI didnt want the usual cream cheese frosting for this cake, because I dont like it. Instead, I frosted the cake with the white chocolate buttercream and this combination is my current favorite thing.

Red Velvet Cake
(Yields one 8 inches round cake)
(Adapted from here)

Ingredients:
1 medium beetroot
1 ¼ cup cake flour
1 ½ tablespoon cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
110 gram unsalted butter
1 teaspoon raspberry extract
1 ¼ cup sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup buttermilk
1 ½ tablespoon white wine vinegar (or regular vinegar)
½ cup roasted beetroot puree

1. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius. Wash and wrap a medium whole beetroot in an aluminium foil and roast for about an hour or till a knife easily cuts through. Cool, peel and puree. This can done upto a day in advance
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.
3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, beet puree,and vinegar.
4. In a large bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, and raspberry flavor. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add a third of the liquid ingredients, followed by a third of the dry ingredients, alternating wet and dry and mixing well after each addition.
5. Pour into your prepared pans and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean and the tops look firm. Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and cool completely on a wire rack before frosting

White Chocolate Buttercream:
(Adapted from here)

170 gram white chocolate
230 gram unsalted butter
240 grams confectioner’s sugar
2 table spoon light cream
½ tsp raspberry flavor
¼ teaspoon salt

1. Prepare a bain marie with barely simmering water.
2. Finely chop the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over bain marie such that the water doesn’t touch the base of the bowl. The bowl should fit snugly to avoid any steam escaping and getting into the chocolate bowl. Take the bowl off heat when about 30% of the chocolate is still not melted and keep whisking gently. The chocolate will keep melting as you whisk. Cool it till it is still at pouring consistency.
3. In a medium bowl, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 minute. Switch the mixer to low speed and slowly add the confectioners’ sugar.
4. Stir in the cooled white chocolate. Switch the mixer to medium speed and beat for 2 minutes until combined and creamy.
5. Add the cream, raspberry extract, and salt. Beat for 1 minute until combined.
6. Frost the cake as desired.
7. Excess buttercream can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. Before using, bring it to room temperature and whisk well.

 

 

 

Chocolate beetroot cake

The world needs peace. Really.  Oppugnant characters need to come together, we need to stop taking sides and make peace. Somewhere I believe it involves bringing Chocolate and beetroots together and I did my bit. We need to be inclusive.

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I have always tried to love beetroots. Loving them for their color came naturally but somehow they never tickled my taste buds. I still keep buying them and incorporate them in meals quite regularly but have never seen a smiling face the day they are on table. However, this cake changed it all.

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This cake started as a red velvet cake. However, the amount of the cocoa was way too much even for the ferocious beet red to show up. So, it ended up as the softest, moistest, and deeply chocolaty chocolate cake with that right punch which no one would believe comes from beet root. It also proved that its not going to be the last cake I have baked with beets. But this cake wont give you the ticket to hop onto the “eating healthy” bandwagon because c’mon! lets not kid ourselves. A beetroot shared by two people over a span of three days (with that amount of cocoa)  doesnt even come close.

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Its a very easy cake to bake, the only extra step is roasting beets in oven for slightly more than an hour and grinding that into a puree. From there its as easy as it can be. The mild sweetness calls for a good quality ganache if you really want to dress it up for an occasion. or just dust it with plain icing sugar on a regular day. Go and hunt for that languishing beetroot. It deserves a place in the oven, instead of fridge.

Chocolate Beetroot cake
(Yields one 8 inches round cake)

Ingredients:
1 medium beetroot, around 150 grams
½ cup neutral oil (I used sunflower)
¼ cup milk
2 tablespoon plain yogurt
½ tsp white vinegar
2 eggs
¾ cup flour
½ cup dark cocoa powder
2/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt

1. Preheat the oven to 176 degrees Celsius . wash, dry and wrap whole beetroot in an aluminium foil and roast for about an hour or till a knife easily cuts through. Cool, peel and puree. This can done upto a day in advance
2. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients and set aside.
3. Blend the wet ingredients including the puree until uniform.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir until combined.
5. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center of the center comes out clean. Cool before icing.

Chocolate ganache:

200 ml light cream
200 gram good quality chocolate (not bitter or dark)
25 gram butter
A pinch of salt

1. Chop chocolate in a heatproof bowl and keep aside
2. Heat cream in a thick bottomed pan over medium low heat till bubbles start appearing over the edges.
3. Turn off the flame and pour the hot cream over the chopped chocolates. Top with butter. Cover and keep aside for 5-7 minutes
4. Whisk well and add in the salt. Cool before spreading

 

Swiss Meringue Buttercream (SMBC)

I am on cloud nine! And the cloud is of Swiss Meringue Buttercream!  Wanna have a look?WP_20160316_06_52_08_Pro(1)

This satin smooth and not overly sweet buttercream is what I coveted for the longest time but dreaded trying. Google about it and you will know! But it kept coming back to me in pictures, thoughts and dreams. I finally decided to try it and read as many recipes and notes as I could and once I was confident, I tried it for the first time and  failed miserably. But SMBC did not intimidate me. It cajoled me to do my home-work better next time. I read beyond what I already knew and decided to make a small batch this time. And this time it all came together as if it was the easiest thing in the whole world!

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This buttercream is satin smooth and holds well at room temperature. I can understand why it is used in the gourmet bakeries all over the world. Unlike the American version, it is delicately sweet. Now I do not need to scrape buttercream off my cake slice. I would rather enjoy. WP_20160316_06_53_37_Pro (2)

I would give you my two cents on making SMBC.  WEIGH YOUR INGREDIENTS AND FOLLOW 1-2-3″  Do not go by “one large egg white” or “3/4th cup of sugar”. Weigh your ingredients. If egg white is X grams, sugar should be 2X and butter should be 3X. Thats all! I mean other than the technique and all the precautions needed to make SMBC. It would be good to go through the notes before jumping to the recipe. This buttercream is my dream come true. Follow the instructions and it would be yours too!

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
(Makes a practice batch to pipe a few roses)

Ingredients:
Egg white: 30 grams
Castor sugar: 60 grams
Butter in cubes: 90 grams, at room temperature but not runny.
Vanilla extract: a few drops

1. Clean a large heat proof bowl and make sure it is grease free. Same for the beaters and spatula.
2. Add egg white and sugar to the bowl.
3. Set a bain marie with simmering water on a low-medium flame. Keep the bowl on bain marie such that the bottom of the bowl doesn’t touch the simmering water.
4. Keep a candy thermometer ready.
5. Start whisking the egg white-sugar mix. Keep checking the temperature with the thermometer till it reads 160 F.
6. Remove the bowl carefully and start whisking with the hand beater beginning with the low speed first. Once foam forms, increase the speed to medium and then high.
7. Beat till stiff glossy peaks are formed and the bowl feels cold when touched from outside.
8. Start adding butter cube-by-cube. Do not add more butter till the previous addition is incorporated
9. The mixture will deflate and may even curdle (mine did not) but keep whipping and it will all come together into a fluffy frosting within a few minutes.
10. Add flavouring of your choice and beat once more.
11. The frosting will stay at room temperature for up to two days and for about a week under refrigeration. The frosting will not crust and needs to be whipped once before use if kept under refrigeration.

Notes:
• Make sure that the egg white is devoid of even a drop of yolk. Yolk will hinder whipping the white to its full volume. It is best to separate egg when it is cold.
• Make sure that the egg whites are heated to 160 F before taking them off heat. Salmonella is killed at this temperature, making it safer for consumption. Italian buttercream involves adding boiling sugar syrup to the egg whites but the temperature doesn’t rise to 160 F.
• Make sure that the bowl has cooled down before adding the butter else the heat will melt the butter and it will not whip to a fluffy consistency.
• Make sure that the butter is at room temperature but is a bit firm when pressed with fingers.

 

A new chase: SMBC

It feels so good to be here. Really. I don’t know where time goes! No, I wont start on my “Oh! I am so busy!!” banter. But the truth is that I am not able to post as often as I would love to. But still I do see “likes” popping up on my little blog even when I haven’t posted for days. So, I want to thank all you lovely people who keep visiting this little space of mine. I really count my blessings. So, a big Thank you!

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Though I don’t have anything to post today but let me tell you what my next post will be about. For the longest time I can remember, I have coveted Swiss Meringue Buttercream and dreamed my cakes covered in it. But I have also read how unpredictable this buttercream is. Top that with the fact that I own a hand mixer not a stand mixer. So it was quite natural that I procrastinated till a few days ago. And then I took the plunge. Two weeks back I did my first ever batch of Swiss Meringue Buttercream. And let me tell you that though it did get quite thick, satin smooth and tasted far superior to the american buttercream I swear by, it didn’t set the way it should have.I cajoled it for good four hours but SMBC has a mind of its own I am told, and that day, SMBC and I were not the best friends. But that’s alright. I am not giving up till I have SMBC  adoring an equally stunning cake and posing for me in all its glory.  It may take next attempt or  a few more but I know its totally worth the wait.

 

Luxurious Brownies

If it was not unconvincing enough to realize that the new year celebrations which happened “just a few days back” are actually gone for almost six weeks, two awesome trips and a workshop concluded before I could blink. And I have no doubts that we are sailing through February rather fast because here the most awaited birthday of the year is already over! So, it was high time I took out my virtual hammock out on the real beach I live by and indulge in these to rein time in.

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I found this recipe many years ago on this wonderful blog. The honesty with which the post was shared made me take notice of the recipe. The steps are more elaborate than most of the recipes I have tried but then I can say the same for the end result as well! A thin shiny crust dupes you till you are plunged into the chewy moist fudge. It is intensely chocolaty and is laced with the nuts of your choice. In short, it is everything a perfect brownie promises to be.

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I have made this recipe many times, and the results have been consistently fabulous. However, this time I swapped the cocoa powder with drinking chocolate ( yes, tinkering is my problem) and the results were still amazing! Technically speaking, drinking chocolate has lower cocoa content than the cocoa powder and contains added sugar as well but if you are using good quality dark chocolate (70% or more), you wont feel the difference. It also means that you can do more with your drinking chocolate!

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These are best made a day in advance as the texture and flavor matures over time and will stay up to five days under refrigeration if stored in an airtight container. However, make sure to bake a large batch if you really want these to last that long.

Luxury Brownies
(Yields 25 medium size brownies)

230g Butter, roughly cubed
310g Sugar (Granulated or Castor)
200g Whole eggs (approximately four) whisked up
230g Finely chopped Dark Chocolate  (70% or more)
140g Flour
40g Cocoa Powder (I used drinking chocolate powder)
200g of nuts of your choice (I used almonds, pistachio, walnuts, and cashews)

• Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
• Butter the baking tin. Then line the bottom & the sides with baking paper.
• Sift together the flour & the cocoa powder.
• Melt the butter completely in a large pot. Add the sugar and mix well.
In a separate mixing bowl mix the solid chocolates & eggs (make sure to mix well).
• Pour the piping hot butter-sugar mixture over the chocolates/eggs in a bowl. Mix quickly & thoroughly – make sure all the chocolates have dissolved (if you still have lumps of chocolates left, zap it at 10 second intervals in the microwave until it melts).
• Spatula in the flour & the cocoa powder. Mix until no traces of flour can be seen.
Mix in the nuts. (Make sure you leave some aside for decorating the top with).
Pour the mixture in to the prepared tin. Evenly decorate some more nuts on the top surface.
• Bake in the oven for 18 to 22 minutes. It’s cooked when the edges have gone slightly dry; the top is shiny & has cracked. The center of the brownie shouldn’t be wobbly when shook. Remember: the toothpick method won’t work on this fudgy brownie.
• Leave aside to cool. Don’t cut until they’ve reached room temperature, or even better leave it untouched for a day to rest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almond cake with butterscotch buttercream

 

The year end baking spree saw heavenly dose of chocolate, fruits and alcohol in my bakes, and that resulted in many happy faces around.  A week into the New Year there was an opportunity for another cake. And suddenly I didn’t want to bake with any of the above! I wanted a new ingredient to bake with, something that would be a fitting contrast to all things chocolate and alcohol. I almost decided on baking with potatoes, but in the end almonds took the cake, quite literally.

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Almonds are a beautiful ingredient to bake with. I love them for the mild flavor and rich texture they impart. At the same time, they pair very well, be it with chocolate, strawberries, honey, oranges, cherries or just anything one can think of. If almonds were humans, they would be the best people around.

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This almond cake was baked purely on experimental basis and it didn’t let me down. This beautiful golden cake is very moist and fluffy at the same time. It is speckled with tiny brown dots and infused with sweet almond flavor. I paired it with butterscotch granules and butterscotch flavored buttercream. And those tiny confetti sprinkles? You don’t fight them when you have a “soon-going-to-be-six years” old at home, you just let them be.

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Almond Cake with butterscotch buttercream:
(Yields One 9-inch round, 2-inch tall cake, or 16 cupcakes)

¾ cup cake flour
1/3 cup almond flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
115 grams unsalted butter at room temperature
200 grams brown sugar
1 teaspoons almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
240 ml buttermilk, well-mixed

• Preheat oven to 350° F (176°C). Butter a 9-inches round cake pan and line with buttered parchment paper.
• Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Mix in almond flour.
• In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium speed until pale and fluffy, (around 3-4 minutes) then beat in almond extract.
• Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well and scraping down the bowl after each addition.
• At low speed, beat in buttermilk until just combined (mixture will look curdled).
• Add flour mixture in three batches, mixing until each addition is just incorporated. It is always good to mix in the last batch with a rubber spatula.
• Spread batter evenly in cake pan, then rap pan on counter several times to eliminate air bubbles.
• Bake until golden and the cake tester poked in center of the cake comes out clean, (around 35 to 40 minutes).
• Cool in pan on a rack for 10 minutes, and then run a knife around edge of pan. Invert onto rack and discard parchment.
• Cool completely before frosting.

Rich butterscotch buttercream:

1 cup unsalted butter
3 teaspoon of butterscotch essence
4 cups of icing sugar
3-4 tablespoons of fresh cream

• Sift the icing sugar and reserve. It is always good to use fresh icing sugar/
• Whip the butter till its light and fluffy, for about 2-3 minute
• Start adding the icing sugar in small batches and keep whipping till it is incorporated all. Add essence and whip well once again.
• Start adding the cream, one table spoon at a time, and whip it well before adding further. Once the desired consistency is reached, add in the color and whip well before frosting the cake.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Fruit Cake

Festivals always arrive a few days before “the” date. They can be felt in the air, smelled in home kitchens, heard in excited conversations of the children and elders alike, seen in the markets and just everywhere. The patient wait and the preparations for the celebrations, days in advance, make revelry even more special.  So, in our home Christmas  festivities almost always arrives in October, when I soak fruits in alcohol for this traditional Christmas Fruit Cake.

Camera360_2015_12_24_042809-001This cake is different from a regular fruit cake as it has a good amount of caramel in it. Caramel gives it a typical deep brown color as well as the toffee flavor which amalgamates beautifully with the alcohol and fruits, and at the same time keeps the cake moist. I prefer to bake my cake at least one week in advance and let the flavors mature with regular feeding of rum. The alcohol not only keeps the cake moist, it increases its shelf-life as well.

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Though I have been baking this cake for as long as I can remember, this year I baked two cakes. One is what you see here, and the other one using the same recipe, with brown sugar replacing the regular sugar and rum replacing the caramel altogether. That cake is still maturing and it will be another couple of days before I can update you on that one. Till then, here is the traditional Christmas Fruit Cake in all its goodness. Merry Christmas!

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(Update 28.12.2015- So, we finally had the rum cake and we did miss caramel in it. This cake was light brown in color unlike one with caramel, and more on sweeter side. It lacked the toffee-rum flavor which I feel is the very soul of the Christmas cake. So, I don’t think I am going to replace caramel with anything as for now! )

Christmas Fruit Cake
(Yields two 8 inches square cakes)

Ingredients

For the fruit mix:
• 500g chopped mixed dry fruits
• 1/4th cup rum/brandy
• 1/4th cup orange juice
• Zest from the peel of one orange
• Juice from one lemon
• 1 tbsp vanilla extract
• 1/4th tsp powdered cloves
• ½ tsp powdered cinnamon
• ½ tsp powdered nutmeg

For the caramel:
• 1 ½ cup sugar
• ¾ cup hot water
• 1 tsp instant coffee powder

For the cake:
• 500 grams alcohol soaked mixed fruit
• 2 cups plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
• 200 gms unsalted butter, room temperature
• ¾ cup sugar
• 4 eggs
• caramel syrup
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• ½ tsp salt
• 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

To make the fruit mix:

• In a non-reactive bowl, place all the ingredients listed under the “fruit mix” and stir well.
• Cover with a fitting lid and keep under refrigeration for 3 days or more. I soak my fruits 3 months in advance
• Mix thoroughly every 3rd day and feed more alcohol as and when needed.

To make the caramel:
• Place sugar in a heavy bottomed pan. Keep the pan on medium-slow flame and let the sugar melt.
• Once sugar begins to melt, rotate the pan to swirl the sugar till it completely melts. Don’t fret if the sugar crystallizes, just keep stirring and it will melt to become caramel.
• Let the caramel reach deep amber color, at which point turn off the flame. Very carefully, slowly add the hot water into the pot and keep stirring. It’s a good idea to wear baking gloves at this time as the caramel will splatter A LOT. Keep mixing the caramel till it settles and dissolve a teaspoon of instant coffee powder to it. Reserve.

To make the cake:
• Heat the oven to 150° C. Grease two 8X8 inches square pans and line thrice with parchment paper. This step is very important since the cake bakes for a long time and not lining with enough parchment layers will result in hardening of the edges. Grease parchment paper as well.
• Toss the soaked mixed fruit in flour well in a large bowl so that the fruit is completely coated. Add the salt and baking powder and mix well. Keep aside.
• Beat the butter and sugar with electric blender till fluffy, about 2 minutes. Then add the eggs and beat well again
• Add the caramel syrup and vanilla extract and beat again till well incorporated. The mixture may appear curdled.
• Add the flour coated mixed fruit mixture to the butter mix and stir well.
• Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake for about an hour. The cake, when done, will be dark golden brown on top and a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake will turn out clean.
• Turn off the oven and let the cake cool. Once cooled, poke several holes into the cake and feed it with rum. Cover the cake in multiple layers of parchment paper and let the cake sit on room temperature for about a week. Feed rum at least twice while the cake is maturing.

Extra notes:
1. Do not pack the cake directly with aluminium foil as the juices of the cake may react with the metal. Its better to cover in the parchment paper and clean wrap and store at room temperature.
2. Though it is better to mature the cake for at least a week, a minimum of two days is much desired.

Coconut banana loaf

Once I shifted to south India after my wedding, the biggest revelation to me was the varieties of banana available here and the obsession with the fruit. I never knew that it came in so many shapes, sizes and colors. And the fact that some varieties were preferred more than others actually left me flummoxed! To me, a banana had  always been just a banana. But not anymore! In last seven years I can tell a Rasthali from a Nendran and have many times left a shop without buying  if the shop didn’t have the stock of the one of my liking. So it was a natural progression that I started baking with bananas more frequently. In other words, banana and I moved from being “just friends” to a more meaningful “relationship”.

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However, it will be blasphemous if you do not say “coconut” in the same breath as “banana” if you are living in southern India. In my maternal home coconut does not enjoy the same status that banana does. There latter is eaten more unceremoniously than the former. But here, like banana, coconut is an integral part of everyday life. It is liberally used in almost every food preparation, be it sweet or savory, vegetarian or non-vegetarian, ceremonial or casual. Personally, I like the delicate flavor and the mild sweetness of the raw coconut. It also happens to be my go-to flavor for desserts. So my friends, how this banana coconut loaf came to be does not need any further write-up.WP_20151219_07_52_58_Pro

This loaf has a good amount of multi grain flour and fruits, but with my own standards for something to qualify as healthy, this one doesn’t get there. Nevertheless, its a moist, very flavorful and  delicious loaf and to call it a tea cake is an understatement unless you are feeling fancy. Easy on steps and requiring very staple ingredients from pantry, you do not really have to plan big to bake this loaf. Just a few leftover bananas and an extra coconut will do.

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Coconut banana loaf
Makes one 9X5X4 inches loaf

Ingredients

• 1 cup All purpose flour
• 3/4 cup multi grain flour
• 1 ½ tsp baking powder
• 3/4th cup sugar
• 113 grams unsalted butter, melted and cooled
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup mashed bananas
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup shredded coconut
• Chopped nuts of your choice

For the loaf:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9X5-inch-loaf pan.
2. In a bowl, whisk together flours, salt and baking powder
3. In another bowl, large enough to hold the batter mix the melted butter and sugar until combined. Add in eggs, mashed banana and vanilla extract.
4. Add the flour mix to the butter mix and whisk till just combined. Add in shredded coconut and nuts if using.
5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes. When done, the top would be golden brown and the tester should come out clean, but take care not to over-bake the loaf.
6. Store in an air-tight container for upto two day at room temperature or refrigerate for upto 3-4 days.

 

 

La Bête Noire

Once the hysteria subsided after I received a bigger-than-I-could-hold pack of this from my newly wed sister, a saintly calm descended upon me. Strangely, I didnt feel the urge to cut open the pack and look at it in real. “It has to be used for the right recipe, at the right time” I told myself. Baking has taught me something nothing else could- Patience. So I  browsed and read while the buttery brown packet rested right in front of my eyes. And then, I found a recipe  which promised to take me to chocolate heaven and I decided to take the Valrhona route. And the time didn’t matter. WP_20151117_14_03_39_Pro (5)A true epitome of the french perfection, La Bête Noire, or The Black Beast is the richest, most decadent, most moist and velvety, most chocolatey chocolate cake that I have come across. No flour, no leavening agent, no folding egg whites. Just sugar syrup, butter, eggs and LOADS of chocolate, in one bowl is all you need to achieve this sophistication. And while the use of Ganache can be left to individual preferences, don’t miss out on strawberries (though any tart juicy berries would do) and no, they are not just for the show. When the cake has taken you to the chocolate heaven, these berries will lend you the nirvana. You can thank me later. Camera360_2015_11_17_031026
La bête noire
(
Almost from here)
For the cake:

• 1 cup water
• 3/4 cup sugar
• 9 tablespoons (1 stick plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, diced
• 18 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 6 large eggs

For the ganache:
• 1 cup heavy whipping cream
• 8 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
• Lightly sweetened whipped cream
• Tart and juicy strawberries, or any other berries (optional but recommended)
For cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 10-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment round; butter parchment. Wrap 3 layers of heavy-duty foil around outside of pan, bringing foil to top of rim. Combine 1 cup water and sugar in small saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
2. Melt butter in large saucepan over low heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk sugar syrup into chocolate; cool slightly. Add eggs to chocolate mixture and whisk until well blended. Pour batter into prepared pan. Place cake pan in large roasting pan. Add enough hot water to roasting pan to come halfway up sides of cake pan.
3. Bake cake until center no longer moves when pan is gently shaken, about 50 minutes. Remove from water bath; transfer to rack. Cool completely in pan.
For ganache:
4. Bring whipping cream to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until smooth. Pour over top of cake still in pan. Gently shake pan to distribute ganache evenly over top of cake. Refrigerate cake in pan until ganache is set, about 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.