Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Kerala Rich Fruit Cake: Baking Debut, Christmas, Battles etc.

I like christmassy things. I erect a christmas tree in front of my room during the season and eat out on christmas eve to make myself feel good. This time christmas time also became battle time. I was battling against sexual harassment on campus. It took a lot of effort from my side as well as the institute's. I shall write about it in detail later. It needs to be recorded. How a group of women fought people holding power positions and (i am predicting here while writing,) succeeded.

Since it was giving me tremendous amount of stress i as usual decided to turn to cooking. I thought of making biriyani and then thought it wouldn't be a challenge big enough to ease out my stress because i have done it several times in the past. That is when i remembered her and her forgetting to soak fruits one season. When she wrote about that i had felt sad, for some reason. So i reminded her to 'soak fruits'. Then i thought what exactly was it that she meant by soaking fruits. So i dug up her recipe of rich kerala fruit cake and voila! i had my stress buster there, in that blog post.

I checked another recipe too, mishmash's.
She had specifically said that while baking you had to have all your measurements right. Comparing both the recipes my head started fuming. I couldn't make head or tail of the measurements mentioned in either. In the end i decided that i would follow her recipe but use mishmash's measurements. Also decided to add the spice mix which was present in mishmash's recipe.

The first step was to get all the ingredients. Baking in Kolkata? Off you go to New Market. So i did. I bought two baking pans and butter paper. I asked Nahoum's, the most famous bakery in New Market (even their fruit cake is not as good as kerala rich fruit cake, forgive me, bengalis, but it's the sweet truth) where i could get these. They directed me to Yakoob Mullick for baking goods and Crazy Nuts for dry fruits. I couldn't find Yakoob Mullick's so i bought my cans from M Rahman and Bros., B-74, New Market. Yakoob Mullick's is where you will get parchment paper I didn't get it the second time i went there too because the shop was too crowded and i had a film to catch back in the institute.

Back in the hostel i chopped the dry fruits and put it all in brandy. I did not chop the dates. Did later, before making the batter. That was the first time i was buying alcohol for anything other than drinking. I didn't like the look of the soaked fruits but i am telling you, it's okay. Mine didn't look all that good but what it made after going into the oven was just perfect. So no worries that way.

I didn't buy unsalted butter that day because she had called for all ingredients to be bought fresh. I thought i would get it from a nearby Spencer's store. I didn't. So i went to New Market again the week after that and looked for a butter shop and i was directed to J Johnson, New Market. You will get your vanilla essence also there. The vanilla essence that was sold in shops near my location smelled different and not very pleasant. This one smelled just like the ones my Amma used to store in her refrigerator. I went to M Rahman and Bros. again and bought all the measuring spoons and a sieve too. I was happy and good to go.

I think i messed up all the measurements or at least some of it. She had said that she never dared touch the recipe she got because she didn't know the complex science of baking. Well, i don't too. Not a bit. So for the same reason i mixed everything up and made a mess out of all the recipes i checked. So just alerting that for me 1 cup = 200mL, if it's really not so in the baking world.

But for all that, my first cake turned out really good and i myself was surprised. It was just like the ones we used to buy from Cochin Bakery (one of the best in Calicut, my hometown). I am not saying that it went smooth as butter. I witnessed the butter paper catch fire inside the oven twice. Once Sethuvamma also witnessed it, panicked and started shrieking. I threw a little tantrum of throwing the whole batter out and she saved it. Vai Vow was witness to this whole commotion. I fed my cat, Pinchu, the chicken chowmeen Sethuvamma had got for me and after the tantrum mode was over had to share Vai Vow's vegetable chowmeen while Pinchu licked her chops. I am guessing that what happened was that i set the oven on the wrong mode. Mine is a very basic model and doesn't have temperature marked on it. So when i put it in the first few times it baked the top of the cake alone and later burnt it also without cooking anything inside. I inverted the whole can and put it in again on another mode which i am assuming baked slower. Then it happened. And what came out was totally yummy.

The recipe called for storing the cake in air tight container for five days before cutting it. Well, neither me nor Vai Vow had the patience and cut it the very next day. It got over the very same day. It's only natural, i would say. It was totally yummy.

As i am writing i am pre heating the oven for the next one. I will write what i did with the two recipes i got from her blog and mishmash's. Dear baking patrons, please forgive this sacrilegious sinner.

I soaked:

Raisins (not black, brown.) 150g,
Orange peals 3-4 chopped,
Tutti frutti- a handful (i didn't know that this was chopped orange and lemon peels or else i wouldn't have bought that separately :D)
Dates (these were dried grapes and i couldn't chop them before putting it in. I think i should have used normal dates)
Cherries 100 g
I put all of this in 750 ml (what is called a pint in Kerala, a half in Kolkata) of brandy, the cheapest i could buy. The brandy was a little too much for the fruits so i think 500 ml would be just right. I soaked them for more than a week before starting on the cake.

Before baking i took out my butter from the fridge and kept it out to bring it to room temperature. I made the caramel by first heating half a cup of water (100 ml) and bringing it to boil. Set it aside to cool. Then took half a cup of sugar and started heating it with 1 tablespoon water. Waited till it turned dark brown. I darkened the shade of my brown every time i started on a new cake till i got the brown i wanted. Added the cooled water and brought it to boil and again and set it aside to cool. Caramel had to be cooled completely before adding it, i was told. I followed that. It looked like this.

Took 1 cup of unsalted butter (room temperature). First i used the butter from new market. Later i got Amul from Spencer's. I tried it first with the eggless cake i made for Sethuvamma. What i realized the difference was that was Amul had more butter in its butter if that makes any sense. Which means you need use only 3/4th of a cup. So take the butter and beat it. Now i don't have a beater so all the beating there was was done with my hands. Then added 1 1/2 cup of sugar to the butter and mixed it well. Added three egg yolks and mixed it well. Added the cooled caramel.

The flour, 1 1/2 cups of maida (all purpose flour). 1 teaspoon of baking powder. Sieved together. Thrice. Took 1 1/2 cups of dried fruits from the soaked bunch. Tossed it all in flour so that they wouldn't sink to the bottom of the batter. (All this was new to me and was pretty excited to see that it in fact didn't sink). If you have nuts, and i didn't, for the cakes i made for myself because i don't like nuts in my cake, but if you have them add chopped nuts 1/2 a cup after tossing that too in flour. Now add the sieved flour to the butter mix and mix well. It's hard. My arms ached the next day the first time i did it. Add the white of three eggs whisked with 1 teaspoon vanilla essence. Now add the fruits and nuts. Mix well. Set the batter aside for 6 hours.

Oven, like i said was different. It had three modes. I preheated the oven at its maximum temperature mode for half an hour. During that time i buttered the baking pan on all sides and lined it with butter paper. I didn't have parchment paper for the sides. Used butter paper there too. Transferred the batter to the baking pan. Put it in to the preheated oven. Turned the temperature mode down to the medium one. It took me one and a half hours to bake. My oven requires that its timer is set every fifteen minutes.
One advice. One night i was dead tired and fell asleep on one cake that i was baking without even knowing that i was sleeping. In the middle of the night when i got up and shouted cake! my partner told me that he had done it all right. I went back to sleep with an 'oh no!' sigh. The next morning found that he had burnt the cake and it was hard as a rock. We had it for breakfast that day. The insides, i mean.

The cake is baked if when you insert a toothpick in the middle of it and pull it out it comes with moist crumbs.

The cake was done. It looked and tasted heavenly.

I made five cakes with the first batch of fruits i soaked. When i soaked them i didn't know that i would be successful or i would have soaked more. So for the next batch i added kiwi and apricots as well. This batch would be for friends and family. So i added fruits and nuts too. The eggless cake recipe was again an improvised one. I got that from Maria's Menu but she had said that caramel was not required too. I didn't alter my earlier recipe one bit except for the egg yolks and white. Instead of that i added 1/2 a cup of whisked curd and 1/4 cup of hot milk. It turned out good too. Crumbled a bit but Sethuvamma was happy. Her christmas was made too.


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