Baking | Garam Masala Fruit Cake … a twist to the traditional, my recipe from scratch!

“I wish we could put up some of the Christmas spirit in jars and open a jar of it every month.”
Harlan Miller

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}I love this season, and agree with the quote above. Christmas is not our main festival, but certainly is an adopted one, one we have learnt to love. Christmas & New Year also mean FRUIT-CAKE season to us. My mother set the trend years ago, when she baked a fruit cake every winter without fail. Would you believe I never imagined that there could be people who dislike fruit cake? Crawled out from under a rock last year when I saw tweets being exchanged, and I discovered that there were 2 very definite sides to the fruit cake coin – LIKE vs HATE … no in betweens. Thankfully, we are a family who LOVE our fruit cake to bits. I have to hide the loaves from the daughter who loves a good fruit cake nibble.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}I heard her rummaging through the fridge and cupboards yesterday and I knew just what she was looking for! My precious cake has been wrapped and is maturing {in hiding}. We’ve had the ‘tasting ceremony‘ a few days ago, and the cake is darned good. Now to wait a few more days, and we shall savour it bit by bit. I am pretty miserly about it because I make it from scratch. Peels, chopping, caramel syrup, butter, weighing, zesting … I heave a sigh of relief when the fruit is finally soaked because the rest of the cake-making seems a cakewalk.

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala} The fruit cake season was kicked off a couple of months ago with this traditional cake mixing ceremony at the Hilton Garden Inn. That was a fabulous experience, and I still hold those huge bowls of peels and dried fruit in my eyes! At the time, I was hit by infectious enthusiasm and the drive back home saw me mixing my fruit the next day… well, in my thoughts!Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}How very ambitious! Back home and life returned to the fast track in the week to follow … mundanities like laundry, driving the hapless kids in circles, laying out winter flower beds, baking, pulling out winter clothes & putting away light summer mulmuls happened. The ‘traditional fruit mixing left on the back burner’, yet not forgotten.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Each time I reached out for a baking ingredient I would see the fruit and promise myself, tomorrow! Tomorrow never comes! That ‘tomorrow’ came last week. I knew I was desperately late, and it was a now or never. Twitter was buzzing with fruit cake activity, Meeta had posted her gorgeous  cake, and frugal Monsieur Lebovitz had his list of fave Holiday Recipes out. Shameful that my fruit was still sitting pretty in bags!Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}I eventually emptied the fridge and larder out. It was like an end of year clearance, literally. I used all the left-over nuts and peels, making up the remaining weight with candied cherries and almonds. In went the bag of raisins from Madhulika in Nasik, currants and black raisins from Old Delhi, dried apricots which had seen better days {but were in for a sweet soaking}, leftover crystallized ginger and orange peels from a Lebovitz recipean entertaining connect of people, places, feelings as I mixed fruit! Instead of Christmas spice in the cake, I took my favoured route of garam masala.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Have you ever added garam masala to your fruit cake? You really should try it. It doesn’t add curry flavours to your cake, I promise. It adds deep warm winter flavours that mingle with the fruit ever so deliciously, you’ll wonder what kept you away so long. Besides, making your own garam masala fills the house with wonderful warm aromas. I make a largish portion now and freeze it.Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}The fruit was soaked for 3 days, but overnight is good too. If you want to go the non alcohol way, just substitute the alcohol with fresh orange juice, but then store the soaked fruit in the fridge for a day or so. Alcohol preserves the fruit so they keep out in a cool place for long. I also added zest from the oranges, and on day 3 I had this fabulous plump shiny sweet smelling mincemeat of sorts. Not the traditional kind as that has suet and grated apple maybe, but my own sweet kind. I was delighted to find a similar link on David Lebovitz for a Quick Mincemeat.Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Once the fruit is mature, the rest of the cake is a virtual breeze. I follow a basic recipe that my mother learnt from a baking course almost 40years ago. The soaked fruit are tossed in the flour mix, coating each fruit well. This way the fruit doesn’t sink to the bottom. The cake gets a rich dark colour thanks to a caramel to which coffee is added. The rest is normal cake procedure. Butter & sugar beaten, eggs added, floured fruit folded in …  and off it goes to bake.

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}

Twitter got me great ideas from Barbara the Vino Luci gal {oh, she is sweet}, and Colleen aka Colly Wolly, the adorable Brown-Eyed Baker from South Africa. Barbaras Last Minute Fruit Cake, and CW was sweet enough to send me hers. I eventually made my own, but have to thank these 2 great gals for the inspiration. The world is certainly better with folk like you, and I can thank twitter for making 2010 such a wonderful year!

Mincemeat sans suet {with garam masala}Mincemeat or fruit mix, sans suet
{made from 1 kg of fruit/nut/peel combination}
300gms raisins, chopped if desired
200 currants
200gms black grapes, chopped
100gms crystallized ginger & orange peel {David Lebovitz recipe}, chopped
100gms almonds, chopped
50gm dried apricots, chopped
50gms candied cherries, chopped
1/4 cup Cherry liquor/brandy
1/2 cup rum {or brandy}
3/4 cup fresh orange juice {from 3 keenus/oranges}
Juice of 1/2 lemon {or 4 limes}
Zest of 2 keenus/oranges
4 tbsp garam masala
Method:
Mix all of the above nicely and soak overnight in a cool place, or for 3-4 days. The longer you soak the fruit, the more mature the flavour. I soaked mine for 4 days as I didn’t have time to bake. {You can substitute the alcohol with an equal amount of orange juice too}

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Garam Masala Fruit Cake
1 kg mixed fruit,nuts,peel mincemeat {mincemeat recipe above}
3 cups plain flour
300gms unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup sugar
5 eggs
3/4 cup caramel syrup {Made with 1 cup of sugar caramelised. Add some water and heat gently to liquefy. Measure and top up with water to make 3/4 cup liquid. Cool}
1 1/2 tbsp instant coffee
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt {skip if using salted butter}
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Method:
Toss the soaked mixed fruit in the 3 cups flour well in a large bowl {I used a huge wok} so that the fruit is completely coated. Reserve.
Stir coffee into caramel syrup. Reserve.
Beat the butter and sugar till fluffy, 2 minutes, add the eggs and beat well again.
Now add the caramel syrup and vanilla extract and beat again for a minute till well incorporated. The mixture may appear curdled but that’s fine. Add baking powder and whisk again.
Turn this batter out over the mincemeat and stir well with spatula to blend uniformly.
Turn into lined loaf pans/baking tins and bake at 140C until the top appears done when you touch it, about 1 hour for the loaf pans, and almost 2-2 1/4 hours for my 15 X 11 tin. {Do keep an eye on the top of the cake. My ovens ‘bake’ setting is just the lower level so the top doesn’t brown too quick. If you find the top browning too soon, please slip a foil loosely over the top about an hour and a half into baking.}
Cool in tin, turn out and wrap in cling-film when cold. Allow to stand and mature in a cool dark place for a day or two, at least overnight. The longer it stands the better the flavours, but we never get that far in my fruit-cake loving household.

Christmas Fruit Cake {with garam masala}Note: You can poke holes on top and pour over some more rum/brandy if you like. In this case, first wrap it in cheesecloth, and then in clingwrap and store in a cool pace.

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Also find me on The Rabid Baker, The Times of India

ROOM FOR CAKE …C is for Chistmas & C is for CAKE…

“Nutty as a fruitcake”
Always room for cake in our little home, and winter screams fruit cake, a cake we love to enjoy from December to February. This is the time for an annual tradition at our place. As long as I can remember, my mother always baked this cake over the Christmas holidays, year after year. It became part of our life, something we looked forward to every winter. Gradually it became a holiday favourite, and with vacation madness came to be known as New Year Cake as it never got made in time!
Then I got married, and slowly baking passion took over my life. Gradually Mom stopped baking this cake, and now it’s an annual tradition over at my place. Now she sits and waits for her share!! I got a little late soaking fruit this year because of the FBC, and barely managed to bake the cake 2 days before Christmas. It was so delicious that it got sliced and was history before Christmas even arrived.
We enjoyed the last few slices on Christmas eve, and I happily have one loaf tucked away, maturing for New Years’ as I type! That’s how I like it … something ready and waiting to be sliced, somewhat like this awesome Stollen. Always tastes so much better after a couple of weeks because you forget the hard work that went into the making!
It’s a delicious recipe that my Mom got when she did a baking course many years ago. The measures are all mixed up. Some in cups, some in grams, and each time I whine at her to ask why, she goes, “Be thankful I’ve managed to keep the recipe at all“.So here I am, with the recipe that’s been handed down to me, with it’s very special ingredient – GARAM MASALA!! It increases the deep flavour of the fruit cake, marrying well with the cinnamon and brandy soaked fruit! ! Next year I plan to make this 1 month in advance because I know it tastes a lot better mature, much like Christmas Stollen.
I drizzled the top with some icing sugar and milk mixed together to form a thick icing. Topped them off with marzipan snowflakes, using the snowflake plunger cutters that Nic @ Cherrapeno gifted me! I used them here too with cookie dough to decorate my gingerbread house for the Daring Bakers December challenge. As you can see, I am really enjoying using them.

Mom’s Christmas Fruit Cake
Ingredients:
400 gms mixed cut fruit (currants,peels,crystallized ginger,raisins,tutti-frutti etc)
1/2 cup cashewnuts, chopped
1/2 cup amonds, chopped
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Juice and zest of 1 orange (approx 3/4-1 cup; or substitue with brandy)
2 tsp garam masala (I like to make mine fresh, but any works well)
2 tsp cinnamon powder
Juice of 2 limes
230gms plain flour
60gms cornflour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
230gms butter
200gms sugar
Caramel made out of 2 tbsp sugar
Instant coffee powder – 1 1/2 tbsp
Eggs – 5, beaten

2 tsps pure vanilla extract

Method:

Preparing fruit:
Soak the mixed fruit in the juice/rum with the garam masala + cinnamon + zest + lime juice overnight or up to 7 days in the fridge.
Cake:
Sift the flour + cornflour + baking powder + salt & keep aside.
Take the soaked fruit & toss them well with the sifted flour. (This ensures that the fruit don’t sink to the bottom of the tin while baking.)

Heat 2 tbsp of sugar in a pan till dark brown & caramelised. Allow to cool a bit. Top with 1/2 cup water + coffee. Let it sit for a while till it all comes together as a thick syrup.

Line a 9″ round tin, or 2 loaf pans,or 2 7″ square cake tins with parchment paper.
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Beat the eggs in a separate bowl. Keep aside.
Cream butter + sugar well. Add vanilla and beat.
Add the beaten eggs and beat for a minute, followed by the caramel.
Mix in the tossed fruit in 3 goes till just mixed in. Don’t over mix.
Turn batter out into prepared tins and bake for approximately 1- 1 1/2 hrs on the lower rack of the oven. Cover loosely with foil if the top starts browning too soon.

Cool and wrap in cling wrap or foil. Keep overnight at the least before slicing.

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This cake is off to Nic @ Cherrapeno who is hosting the Sugar High Friday this December! Sugar High Friday (SHF) is a blogging event created by Jennifer of The Domestic Goddess, where the participants create, cook and photograph something sweet within a theme. This is SHF no. 60, and the December’s theme is ‘holidays’!
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Passionate About Baking has been nominated at ‘The Homies 2009′ in the Home Cooking category at ‘The Kitchen‘. If you like, you can vote HERE!

FRESH PEACH GINGER PEASANT CAKES ~ JULIE & JULIA ~ A vegetarian twist to her clafoutis!

“I think the inner person is the most important. . . . I would like to see an invention that keeps the mind alert. That’s what is important.”
Julia Child

The release of Julie & Julia has led to a Julia Child wave among blogs, food blogs in particular. Elle’s New England Kitchen & Food Blogga featured some beautiful blog posts on the film. Do head for their blogs as Elle & Susan have some sweet sound bites on the film. The film’s official blog, Julie & Julia also is well worth a visit. The other day I saw a beautiful Cherry clafoutis that Val posted @ More Than Burnt Toast. It was for an event that Helene @ Le Cusine de Helene had tweeted out for a Julia Child MAFTC challenge. MAFTC?Mastering the Art of French Cooking’, of course! I was dashed I had missed it. But Helene, being the sweetheart that she is, retweeted it to me, & here I am! Thank you Helene! We ♥ challenges like this. FUN!! Vive la TWITTER!!
(Don’t you just ♥ it?) Here are a couple of tweets about the MAFTC as i got them…
  • RT Announcing Mastering the Art of French Cooking Challenge. Pick any recipe and blog, tweet about it nx Friday. Who’s in???
  • @CulinaryMelange @cardamomaddict @kbgerth @ABCcooking @vindee @kitchenpuppies @Dragonskitchen @mollierosev are you in for MTAFC Friday?
Julia Child (born Julia Carolyn McWilliams August 15, 1912 – August 13, 2004) was an American chef, author and television personality, who introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream, through her many cookbooks and television programs. Her most famous works are the 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the television series The French Chef.
In August 2002, Julie Powell started documenting online her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she later began reworking that blog, The Julie/Julia Project, into a book. In March 2008, director-screenwriter Nora Ephron began filming Julie & Julia, adapted from Powell’s memoir, Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. The paperback was retitled Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously (Back Bay Books, 2006). Ephron’s film, the first major motion picture based on a blog, is scheduled for August 7, 2009 release. Meryl Streep stars as Julia Child and Amy Adams portrays Julie Powell.

Now onto the food bit … ie clafoutis. Clafoutis, sometimes in Anglophone countries spelled clafouti, is a custard-like baked French dessert that is typically made by baking fresh fruit (traditionally cherries) and a batter, somewhat similar to pancake batter, in a baking dish. Originally from Limousin, the dish’s name comes from Occitan clafotís, from the verb clafir, meaning “to fill up” (implied: “the batter with cherries”). Clafoutis apparently spread throughout France during the 19th century.

As a matter of strange coincidence, I was to take a peep again into a charming blog, Luna Cafe, around this time. It’s a wonderful place, full of exciting ideas, and flavours that are so ‘me’. It’s funny, but each post of SMS Bradleys‘ has flavours and choices I would inherently turn to. This time was no exception. She posted a Fresh Apricot Ginger Peasant Cake & my heart skipped a beat. Glory be thy name! It was a rather intriguing take on the clafoutis, in her words, “Drawing inspiration from Julia Child who describes this classic dessert beautifully, along with several variations, in the inestimable, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. My version is on the other end of the spectrum. It contains no eggs and is cake-like (not a pancake, not a custard) with a decidedly chewy texture, which everyone who tastes it loves. I don’t recall where I stumbled on the unusual formula here, but I have not encountered it anywhere since.”

Well said… This cake is utterly simple to make, tastes as good as the fruit you put in, is eggless, yet cake like. It has this wonderfully chewy texture, with the fruit & batter combining to create magic. It’s lovely served warm, light enough for an afternoon tea, but is as good served chilled with some unsweetened cream, or even ice-cream. It tasted good with the Roasted Peach & Plum Ice-cream I had just made. The ice-cream, which is low fat & eggless, complimented the peasant cake beautifully. A dusting of almond slivers, a few snips of homemade candied ginger made it an even happier combination.Perfect for summer … light & endearing, the cakes are good for breakfast too. Chilling these enhanced the flavour of the ginger within, & resulted in instant crystallised ginger addiction in the kids! I have never seen them take to ginger so well! The cake is best made with good quality apricots, but I did pretty well with fresh peaches. Other fruit suggestions include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, or sour cherries.

To quote SMS Bradley, Apricots release their full depth of flavor only when cooked, thus I am always looking for ways to treat them to a little heat. They are the perfect fruit for this simple cake, but blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, peaches, or sour cherries will also work beautifully.FRESH PEACH GINGER PEASANT CAKES
as adapted from this recipe at Luna Cafe
Ingredients:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
4 peaches, halved, seeds removed
1/2 cup vanilla sugar
3 tablespoons chopped candied ginger
Juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract

Cake Batter
Ingredients:
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup vanilla sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk, plus 1 tablespoon
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Garnish
Powdered sugar in a shaker
Slivered almonds (optional)

Method:

  • Butter a 10½-inch diameter ceramic pie plate with a 5-6 cup capacity, or 6-8 small shallow individual tart pans. (Another shape of shallow baking dish with the same capacity will also work.) You may need to use a brush to lightly coat the edges of the pie plate with butter. Reserve.
  • Halve the peaches, pit, & roughly chop for small tart pans, or quarter (bigger pieces for 1 large dish. Put these in a big bowl with the vanilla sugar,candied ginger, vanilla extract and lime juice. Gently combine the peaches with the other ingredients. Reserve.

To prepare the cake batter:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, the remaining 3/4 cup vanilla sugar, and the baking powder. With a wooden spoon or whisk, beat in the milk & vanilla extract to produce a smooth batter. Don’t over beat. However, the batter should not have too many lumps either. Pour the batter into the center of the buttered dish. It will spread out on its own.
  • Place a spoonful of peaches, and some of their remaining liquid evenly over the batter, leaving a 1/4–inch open border of batter around the outside edges. I also did a few with spooning the fruit in first & the batter over. The first was prettier, but both dramatic! For a single large gratin dish, place all the fruit on top of the batter, & leave a 3/4″ border. (this will allow the batter to rise dramatically at the edges).
  • Place on a rack in the upper third of a preheated 190°C oven. Set an edged baking sheet on the rack below to catch any overflow.
  • Bake for 40-45 minutes (a little less for smaller cakes), or until the sides are fully puffed, the center is slightly puffed, and the top is golden brown.
  • Remove from the oven to a wire rack to cook for 15 minutes before cutting / serving. To serve, dust with powdered sugar and cut into wedges for 1 large pie, or as is for smaller cakes.
  • Serves 4-6

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