Wednesday, December 12, 2012

David Lebovitz's Chocolate Fruit Cake

 Did you know that the world is divided into fruit cake lovers and fruit cake haters? Comes as a surprise really as I can only imagine loving fruit cake. After all, who in their right minds won't like something with dried fruit, nuts and spices in every bite. And yes candied peel! My recently discovered love for home-made  candied orange peel , made me triple the recipe I made last year! I did not want to run out of it when I have more than a couple of baking plans featuring them. Factor in repeats of successes or God forbid, re-trails of any disasters! Plus a little extra as I keep popping pieces of this zesty, just-about-sweet goodness in my mouth every time I open the fridge. I must confess, I am shocked realizing the number of times I must have gloated about my home-made peel to anyone who cares to listen. The yummy home-made peel as compared to the unappealing packaged ones. Picture me holding the box saying  ''You want to taste? See? It tastes yumm, I told you! Don't buy the peel, make your own!''

So, as I went scouting for a good recipe for a fruit cake, this one from David Lebovitz's site caught my eye. Not your true-blue Christmas cake alright, but a chocolaty fruit cake, very promising with cocoa, bits of bittersweet chocolate, toasted nuts and a modest amount of dried fruit. No copious amounts of butter, even better! Dried sour cherries feature in Monsieur's recipe, I wanted to use dried cranberries and candied peel in place of the cherries, soaked the cranberries in water overnight. The next day, I had a guest coming over for lunch. Fairly satisfied that lunch was almost ready, I prepared the loaf pan, weighed the ingredients and kept the butter out to soften. An unexpected change in plans as I expect more people than planned! Panic, dump everything back in place, run around like a headless chicken! Finally, after all the clearing up in the evening, was ready to put up my feet, the temptation of a foot massage lurking in my mind , but the prepared tin looked even more tempting! I had to bake and was glad I did! The aroma of chocolate and orange in the warm cake was amazing! A stolen piece from the side of the warm loaf, chocolate, nuts and candied orange peel,!!!

David Lebovitz uses and recommends dried sour cherries. Dried pears, cranberries, candied ginger or apricots are other dried fruit you could use, macerating them overnight in rum, whiskey or amaretto for a day. If you are like me use just water or even orange juice if you prefer. Drain and squeeze out excess liquid. I have soaked dried cranberries in water overnight just to plump them.

I have halved the recipe and baked in 2 small loaf pans. The cakes were light when warm, but turned dense but delicious as they cooled.

Adapted from here

  Chocolate Fruitcake ( Chocolate Cherry Fruit cake)
   Makes 1 loaf cake in a 23 cm loaf pan or 2 mini loaves ( 3 1/4'' x 6 1/2'' aprox). (This is half the original recipe, double if you wish)
   Adapted from Ready for Dessert by David Lebovitz

  Dried cranberries and candied orange peel, - well-chopped - 3/4 cup  ( I have used 6 tablespoons each, I  suggest you do the same too!)
  Orange juice, rum, whiskey, or amaretto or water - 30ml / 2 tablespoons (for macerating the fruit, I used water)
  Additional liquor or juice to brush the cakes - 45 ml / 3 tablespoons
  All-purpose flour -  85 grams / 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons
  Unsweetened cocoa powder (Dutch-process or natural) -  25 grams /1/4 cup
  Salt -1/4 teaspoon
  Baking soda - 1/4 teaspoon
  Baking powder - 1/4 teaspoon
  Butter (salted or unsalted), at room temperature - 5 tablespoons (70g)
  Sugar, super fine - 1 cup /200 grams ( I used 180 grams, read note)
  Egg -1 large / 48 grams, at room temperature
  Egg yolk - 1/2 , 9 grams
  Vanilla extract - 3/4 teaspoon
  Buttermilk or plain yogurt (regular or low-fat) 1/3 cup ( I have used 2 parts yogurt plus 1 part water)
  Grated orange zest - from half an orange, from about 1/2 a teaspoon
  Walnuts, pecans, or almonds, toasted and finely-chopped - 68 grams / 1/2 cup ( I used almonds and walnuts)
  Bittersweet chocolate chunks or chips - 6 tablespoons cup  - 60g

  • Chop the cranberries and orange peel very well. Soak the cranberries in water overnight or for a few hours at least. Drain well, squeeze out excess liquid before use. If using liquor, a day or so before you make the cake, toss them in liquor, cover, and let macerate.
  • On the day you bake the cakes, grease a 9 x5 inch (23 cm) loaf pan or smaller loaf pans and line the bottom with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / 350F.
  • Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside. Stir together the egg, yolk, vanilla in a small bowl. You will need to dribble this into the butter and sugar as you cream. Using a fork, whisk in the orange zest into the buttermilk or yogurt.
  • In the bowl of a standing electric mixer, or with a hand held mixer or by hand, dribbling in the egg mixture, beat the butter and sugar until very light and fluffy. I used my hand mixer on speed 3 for about 5 -6 minutes.
  • With a spatula, mix in one-third of the flour/cocoa mixture, then half of the yogurt or buttermilk. Then mix in another third of the dry ingredients, then the rest of the yogurt. Finally add the remaining dry ingredients, and gently stir in the nuts, chocolate chips and cherries. (Which should have absorbed all the liquid. If not, add that as well.)
  • Spoon the batter into the pan/pans ( filled a little more than half-full), bake for 45 minutes (for 9x5 pan, about 30-35 minutes for the smaller pans), or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Tricky, as your tester may have encountered a melting piece of chocolate and not uncooked batter). The cake is not a high riser. Let stand on the counter top for about 15 minutes.
  • With a skewer, poke 50 holes in the cake and spoon 3 tablespoons of liquor over each cake. Let cool. For a boozy cake, he suggests poking holes in the warm cake with a skewer and brushing with liquor, brushing with additional liquor once in every few days for an even more boozy one!

Storage: David Lebovitz says, if well wrapped, these cakes will last for about a week. If planning to freeze, don't add liquor.  You can rewarm them once they’re thawed and add it later.

 Please note: I have used 1 cup of super fine sugar which weighed 180 grams. This was a wee bit on the sweeter side for me, though hubby and friends said it was just right. Bear in mind the kind of fruit (sweet or sour) you would be using and sweetness of juice if using any. Use bittersweet chocolate if you can find as it may help balance out the sweetness. I have used a little more vanilla extract and some orange zest as I have not used any liquor.

Thought I kept dreaming of neat slices of cake, the cake was quite crumbly with all the fruit and nuts and I could not manage a single neat slice! It dawns on me now, that probably if I had chopped the berries very well I would have been able to slice the cake.. The oddly cut slices were packed off for the neighbors, as I planned to bake another for the pictures. As my pictures tell you, the next one did not slice neatly either. We loved the cake, and maybe I will bake this just once more if I have any candied peel left. And may be sneak in and replace the pictures which look at least half as good as the cake tastes!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Basic Baking Ingredients - Part 2

Here I come with the next and last part about basic baking ingredients. The ingredients here are listed in alphabetical order as in my previous post. This post doesn't include baking paraphernalia or cake decorating ingredients in much detail. Again this is just a brief introduction to the ingredients, keeping the beginner baker in view. I have provided links to previously written posts to avoid unnecessary repetition and cut down the length of the post. So, without much ado, her goes..

Images are mostly from the world wide web.

Flax seeds:  These tiny seeds with great nutritional value are used as a substitute for eggs in baking and also as a topping for breads and other bakes. These come in dark and golden color, though only dark flax seeds are commonly available here at the super markets. 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds mixed with 3 tablespoons warm water, let to sit for 5 minutes to make a goopy mixture can be used as a substitute for one egg. These seeds impart a nutty taste, so it may be best suited in recipes with nuts in them - source Champa

Fondant -  The sweet soft play-dough kind of thing used for topping cakes, lettering and making little figures for decorating cakes, perfect for a kiddie birthday cake. Am not into decorating with fondant and you will never catch me eating it, but have used Wilton fondant and found it really nice to work with. Unless you need large quantities of colored fondant for frequent use, a small pack of white fondant can be tinted with gel color and used. Rolled fondant works as a nice canvas to paint piping gel on. Fondant is now available here at General Food Additives (GFA), no haven't used it yet!

Gluten - As an ingredient used in baking breads, this refers to vital wheat gluten (picture below). Used to make bread flour ( 1 cup / 130 grams APF mixed with 1 table spoon gluten is 1 cup bread flour) and also used for baking breads with whole wheat flour in the same proportion.When added to the bread dough, it provides extra gluten to the flour, specially whole grains. It helps bread rise to the maximum height, retain the height,  thereby making your bread softer and better in texture. Available at GFA in one kg packs, sold loose at IBCA . Check this online resource Bakersmart . I buy mine from GFA. If you do not bake breads very often, its a good idea to buy a kilo of packed gluten (more hygienic anytime) and share it with a friend. 

Golden Syrup - Another by-product of sugar manufacturing, this looks similar to honey. Check at Godrej Natures basket, Spar, Namdharis and Supermarket. Corn syrup, light molasses are things you could use as substitutes depending on the recipe. 

Honey - A very commonly stocked ingredient in most kitchens, honey comes in handy for baking breads, granola etc. I normally buy Dabur honey which comes with a convenient, less messy, squeeze-pour So far, I have not tried baking with home-made honey.

Liquid Glucose - This ingredient is mostly used in making jams, ice creams, marshmallow, fondant, candies etc. It is supposed to help prevent formation of sugar crystals. It can be used as an alternative to corn syrup. Try at your pharmacy, GFA and other baking stores.

Maple syrup - A sweet, aromatic syrup made from the sap of maple trees, this is often used as a sweetener in baked goods. Also used as to serve with pancakes, waffles etc, its supposed to lend a very nice distinct smoked aroma and flavor. Honey is the more economical locally available substitute. Pancake syrup contains only a small percentage of maple syrup, so not really a substitute. This is another ingredient which comes highly priced. Check for availability at Supermarket or Nilgiris, Brigade Road, Namdharis and GNB and Zansaar.  

Molasses - A by product of the sugar manufacturing process, this is a dark colored substance (picture above) which lends sweetness with a bitter edge and dark color to baked goods (picture above). Honey, dark corn syrup and maple syrup can be good substitutes, though not all of these they may not give you the color that molasses gives. You could buy molasses at GNB, expensive! Another substitute you could try is 3/4 cup (180 ml) (160 grams) light or dark brown sugar heated to dissolve in 1/4 cup (60 ml)  liquid, then measure out the needed quantity - source Joy Of Baking

Marzipan - This is a sort of paste made basically of almond paste / ground almonds, sugar and almond flavoring,  Think almond katli (in taste), with uses similar to fondant. Can be tinted with food color, its used to cover cakes, traditional breads like stollen, fruitcakes, wedding cakes and in making small decorative figures. This is seen here more during Christmas  time, Nilgiris has this mostly. You could also make your own. Check Deeba's recipes here and here.

Milk - When recipes call for whole milk, specially for baked custards and other custard based dishes, be sure to use whole milk. It does make a lot of difference to the taste and texture of the end product. I use Nandini milk with 4% fat (the one which comes in an orange pack). Otherwise when you need to use milk in other recipes as part of the liquid, you could use low fat milk (2%) or even the almost fat free milk without much of change in the baked goods.

Evaporated milk : Not to be confused with condensed milk, this is milk processed to remove 60% liquid, mostly unsweetened. Supposedly, this can be reconstituted with water to make milk. I am not aware of any local sources for this.

Condensed milk : The ever popular ingredient used for making desserts mostly, Milkmaid the most popular brand here. This one is also milk processed in order to remove the liquid. What we get here is mostly (over)sweetened. Unless the recipe has something to really balance it out, you can expect the baked product to be on the sweeter side, cloyingly sweet if the cake/dessert also has sweetened chocolate / sugar in it.

Milk powder: A great thing to have in your pantry, this is very good in yeast breads. Since its not perishable like milk, you will find it specially useful when you use the delay start feature in your bread machine. You could weigh out the dry ingredients of the bread recipe like flour, salt, spices, sugar and milk powder and store it in zip-lock bags to make that bread needed in a hurry. It adds color to the bread, even if there isn't more sugar or eggs (both of which help give color) in the recipe. Nandini skimmed milk again, available at super-markets and of course at your nearby milk booth. You could also make low fat khoya for your desserts.

Nuts - Nothing like rancid nuts to ruin that otherwise perfect cake or dessert! Be sure you buy these from a good whole sale shop or super market. If you buy in large quantities, store them in the freezer to prevent them from turning rancid. Paranoid about smelly walnuts, I check with the store if I can get a refund/exchange in case the nuts are have already gone rancid. Hazelnuts are even more expensive, pecans not commonly available. GFA now stocks hazelnuts too. You could easily use ground walnuts in the place of hazelnuts in cookies and cakes. Get your nuts to room temperature, chop /bash them before you grind them.

Oil - Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is best for pizza sauce, dips and the kinds as it gives a very nice aroma and flavor. Otherwise when recipes call for oil such as canola or safflower, you could use sunflower or rice bran oil, or pure olive oil. Any oil as long as it is neutral in taste and flavor. Avoid peanut oil as it has a distinctive smell. Coconut oil (Parachute, not advanced!) is great in your coconutty bakes such as coconut bars or coconut bread.

Oats - These whole grains are rolled and flattened into flakes under weight, steamed and lightly toasted to give you rolled oats. These could be old fashioned rolled oats (the thicker, chewier variety) or quick cooking oats like Quaker.  For my granola bars, and granola, I like to use Quaker quick cooking oats. I avoid jumbo oats as they are really thick and very chewy. Make your oatmeal by simply grinding quick cooking oats in your mixer. Again oat bran is a different thing, used to add fiber and texture to baked goods.

Potato flour & flakes : Though am not much of a fan of this product in my cooking, I love using this in my potato rolls! Makes your bread really soft, without the hassle of having to weigh (or guess the approximate size of potatoes) boil and mash potatoes. More standardized too definitely as you can easily weigh them. I don't love it when a bread recipe says 2 medium sized potatoes. 50 grams of potato flakes is so simple and easy! I use Vegit Aloo Mash for this. You could also use cornstarch in the same quantity to substitute potato flakes says Champa.

 Phyllo / Filo pastry (above) : Admit it! You are now thinking of Baklava! Crispy, flaky pastry which can be put to really versatile use. Bake with sweet/ savory fillings or as a base for tarts, strudels and other desserts and appetizers. Unlike puff pastry, this one thankfully isn't loaded with butter, in fact, made without butter in the pastry per se. This is available here at Godrej Natures Basket, check at Supermarket, Brigade Road, Food World Gourmet store, MG Road and Sorbet. Expensive again, but hopefully good to use when you are pressed for time. Make your own, for the fun of it and yes, its so so very inexpensive! Check this  post of the Daring Bakers.

Puff pastry : Buttery, flaky pastry, super versatile as a base, can be filled with sweet or savory.  Commercially sold puff pastry sheets here are mostly made with margarine and are also sold in bulk, so not highly recommended.  Loved making mock puff pastry (above) works great for me, yet to try the real puff pastry!  Make your own with good quality butter at home, have a party with all the uses you can put it to!

 Saffron , saffron extract - This aromatic spice of good quality is not very easy to find here. My saffron strands sourced by my sis-in-law in the US. You could also try saffron extract, quite good,  I have used it here. Am not very sure about the economics part, but the extract would be very convenient to use in recipes which can do without the addition of liquid (the milk you would need to soak the saffron strands in) - cookies, saffron flavored whipped cream? More details on the extract here

Sugar : Info on this in my previous post.

Sour cream : Please find the information in the previous post

Vanilla : The baker's indispensable companion, the aroma which makes your home smell so good when you bake! I used to use vanilla essence earlier, but have now started to use pure vanilla extract. Its really easy to make at home - just dunking a couple of good quality beans in vodka and letting it infuse the flavor for at least 6 weeks, the longer the better! Vanilla bean sugar can be made by grinding used, dried beans with sugar. Great used in bakes as well as a topping for your cookies, cakes.

Buy good quality vanilla beans, i.e, beans which are shiny, moist, plump and can be bent around your finger easily. Beware of the inferior quality ones which look like dried twigs. I get my beans from Ecospice, Thankamany Post, Idukki District, Kerala. Ph: 919447330803. email : Information courtesy, Deeba Rajpal I find the beans of good quality, reasonably priced. Using the bean and extract together gives a very nice vanilla flavor and aroma without being overpowering. Now please don't blame me if you start disliking synthetic essence!

Vinegar : A commonly used ingredient in both cooking and baking, you have white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice wine vinegar to name a few. Plain synthetic distilled vinegar is very commonly available in most departmental stores. Can be used to make buttermilk etc. Apple cider vinegar has a more fruity flavor and more suitable for using in cake / cookie batters.  American Garden's apple cider vinegar is good and reasonably priced.

Zest : Nothing can bring the intense zesty flavor of oranges / lemon like zest can!   The outer part of the skin of the fruit called zest is your best bet for your orange cakes, cookies and lemon curd. Use a citrus zester ( I use a Microplane zester) to grate the zest, scarping only the orange/green part. The white part of the skin called the pith is bitter, so do not scrape it. If you do not have a zester (get one!), peel the skin of the orange (without the pith) with a sharp knife , grind it with some of the sugar in the recipe.

Yogurt : Plain unflavored curd, home-made or packaged. Use whole or fat free as recommended in the recipe.

Yeast: Your leavener in yeast breads, commonly available in the form of active dried yeast and instant yeast. Be sure your yeast is good and you store it properly. Your yeast is good enough or not? Check this post here. I like, no, love using instant yeast! Its your safest bet, beginner friendly. Gloripan, Angel, Eagle are some brands of instant yeast you can find at GA, IBCA, Natures Basket and Brown Tree. I buy a 500 gram pack (great value for money at Rs.125 or so when I got last), store in 2-3 tight lidded boxes in the chill tray of my fridge.

Try your luck at these online stores too - Zansaar, Bakersmart and Foodforethought. I am yet to shop from these sources, so please don't hold me on this :) Do you have any more ingredients to add to this? Or share information on good online sources for baking ingredients in India?