Monday, December 29, 2014

Corn Flake Cookies



Today I have an easy recipe for you that yields a delicious treat for your family and friends during this Christmas time.  I have been baking these cookies since last year when one of my blogger friend who posted this on her blog.  I couldn't resist baking these cookies right away and it turned out to be a keeper.  Last year I made some edible gifts with these cookies.  This cookie is my little one's favorite.  I am sure you will love it too.





I want to keep this post short and sweet.    Bake this yummy treats and enjoy.  Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!!!


Recipe adapted from here
Yields - 12 - 15 cookies depending on the size you roll them

Ingredients 
1 1/4 cup - all purpose flour
2 tbsp. - Corn flour
1/4 tsp. - Baking powder
1/2 cup (1 stick) - Unsalted Butter (room temperature)
1/2 cup - Sugar
1 - egg
1/4 tsp. - vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup - Plain Corn flakes  ( crushed )

Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Sift flour, corn flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl and stir until combined.
  • Cream butter and Sugar for few minutes until fluffy in the mixing bowl of a stand mixer using paddle attachment or using an electric hand mixer.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat well till creamy.
  • Add the flour mixture to it and beat till combined.  The dough will be slightly sticky.  If it is hard to handle, cover it with a plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 - 20 minutes to set.
  • Make balls using 1 tbsp. of the dough for each cookie and gently press them between your palms to flatten.  Roll them in crushed corn flakes.
  • Place them on a baking tray lined with parchment paper with enough spacing so that they get room for expansion.  Bake them for 25 - 30 minutes.
  • Cool them on wire rack and store it in air tight container.  These cookies will stay fresh for 2 weeks at room temperature in air tight containers.
Notes:
  • I bake them for 30 minutes, so that they turn out little crunchy and crispy and this helps to keep them longer.  If you are making small cookies, 25 minutes of baking will be enough.  Depending upon your oven and the size of the cookies, the time may vary.  So keep an eye on the cookies after 20 minutes.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Eggless CutOut Shortbread Cookies



Deck the halls with boughs of holly
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la
'Tis the season to be jolly
Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la

Looking outside through my family room window I can still see the yard full of Christmas decorations and lights in one of the houses in our development.  We barely did any decorations outside this time.  Our outside decoration was limited to a Christmas wreath on the door.    Boxes full of icicle lights are still sitting in the basement untouched.  There are so many things going on around this time that we are hardly finding time to do all these decorations this year.  Kids were excited to put the Christmas tree up, so it happened a week ago.  Yes I know it was late too!!!  Anyway, I didn't want to miss the baking spree I always enjoy during this time of the year.  Honestly speaking last few days, I was busy baking batches of cookies for the Christmas Carolers.  Our Church has a tradition of going to houses with most of the church members including kids and sing carols.  It's a fun filled whole day process.



Here is a recipe for eggless Shortbread Cookies that you can make with your kids or even by yourself.  My kids were excited to cut out different shapes with the cookie cutter.  They look so cute and you can decorate as you wish.  I simply used some melted chocolate to do the final touch of decorations rather than sugar coated icing.  You can use Vanilla or Coconut or Almond flavoring for these cookies.  I prefer pure Vanilla extract flavor for these cookies.  This is one of those simple recipes that use the ingredients you can find in your pantry all the time.  If you don't have a cookie cutter, you can even use a serrated knife to cut out the cookies in rectangles, squares or in triangles.  You can even use a floured Mason jar lid to make some round cookies. 



Recipe adapted from here

Yields - 15 - 20 cookies (number will vary with the size, shape and thickness)

Ingredients:

2 cups - all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp.. - salt
1 cup / 2 sticks - unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 cup - powdered sugar
1 tsp. - pure Vanilla extract


To Decorate

1/2 cup - semisweet dark chocolate / milk chocolate pieces

Directions:
  • Beat the butter to achieve a smooth and creamy texture in a mixing bowl of a stand mixer using paddle attachment or using a electric hand mixer or a rubber spatula.
  • Add the powdered sugar, salt and vanilla.  Beat well on low speed for 30 seconds.  Now add the flour and mix well till the dough is all crumbly and wet and holds together.
  • Transfer the dough to the center of a plastic wrap sheet.  Cover the dough with another long piece of plastic wrap.   Now use your hands to smooth up the dough little bit to form a ball with the plastic wrap on.  Using a rolling pin roll the dough to 1/4 inch thick circle with the plastic wrap on.  Transfer the rolled dough to a flat plate and make sure all the edges are covered with the plastic wrap. 
  • Keep the plate with the plastic wrapped dough into the freezer to set for 5 - 6 minutes.  If the dough is very sticky keep it for 10 minutes.
  • Pre heat oven to 350 F.
  • Now the dough is ready to be cut out into shapes.  Using your favorite cookie cutter cut out some shapes.  Try to cut out maximum number of cookies from the first batch.
  • Bake the cookies on  a parchment paper lined baking sheet for 8 - 10 minutes or till the sides of the cookies starts to get very light golden brown.  You have to make sure that the cookies are not over baked.  Cookies should have white color.
  • Repeat the rolling, freezing, cutting out process till all the dough is used up.  Let the cookies cool completely on a wire rack.
To decorate
  • Using a double boiler method melt the 1/2 cup of chocolate pieces or microwave 4 cups of water in a microwave safe bowl  for 4 minutes.  Place the chocolate pieces in a smaller heat proof bowl and place over the bowl with hot water.  Use a spoon to stir the chocolate, it will melt completely.    I used 2 measuring cups of different sizes to do this.  You can either dip a part of the cookie into the melted chocolate to decorate it and place on a baking sheet with parchment paper to cool.  Or you can use a piping bag with writing tip to make some designs.  Let the chocolate  designs harden completely before transferring to an air tight container.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kerala Plum Cake/Christmas Fruit Cake



Kerala Plum Cake or Christmas fruit cake is a rich, dense and moist cake famous in the Southern part of India (Kerala) which is traditionally served during Christmas time.  There are few popular brands of these cakes available in Kerala which people religiously buy during Christmas time.  Local Bakeries bake tons of plum cakes during Christmas and New Year time and this is exigent with some red wine during the Christmas feast in typical Central Travancore Christian families.  The authentic Kerala Plum cake is made with loads of dry fruits soaked in either Rum/Brandy with a blend of spice mix.  The aged soaked fruits and caramel syrup gives the flavor and dark color for the traditional Kerala Cake.  The labyrinth steps and longer list of ingredients coerce one to rely on the Plum cake from local bakers.  Now days there are several variations to these cakes with fewer ingredients and less alcohol or no alcohol. 


I have been making this cake for the past couple of years and it’s a no fail cake and my family and friends love it.  To be honest, I was never a fan of Kerala Plum cake till my marriage.  It was a boozy and spicy cake for me.  My attitude towards the Plum cake changed when I found out that my hubby was a big fan of Kerala Plum cake.  He used to make sure to get a cake whenever he visits my parents where Kerala stores stack these cakes on the front desk.  I remember once when my son's baby sitter who offered me a small loaf of rum cake which was dark, fruity and full of flavor.  It was an amazing cake, just like the Jamaican dark rum cake.  If you go for cruise to the Caribbean islands, make sure to get one of the dark rum cakes, they are so addictive and tastes similar to the Kerala Plum cake.  Since my hubby is a diehard fan of Plum cake, I was forced to give it a try in my kitchen.



My first attempt was a flop.  It turned out to be a very hard cake even though the taste was awesome.  I never gave up my experiment with Plum cake.  The next attempt was a success with a bang.  Since then, I follow this recipe word by word which I came up by tweaking few recipes from our family and my friends.  I highly recommend you to read the recipe and notes to the end before you start baking the cake.  If you strictly follow the recipe without improvising, I can guarantee you that you will get a most flavorful Kerala Plum Cake.  Once you are confident with the first trial, you can certainly improvise the recipe in the next attempts.  I am warning you because I learnt it in a hard way by ruining the cake in my first attempt and you don’t want to waste all the dry fruits and the amount of effort you took to make it.



I had made the Plum cake using red wine which equally imparts the flavor as the Rum/brandy version.  Once you start making your own Plum cake, you would never like to buy one from the bakery.  The homemade Plum cake is less sweet and more flavorful than the store bought Plum cake.  This recipe yields a soft yet dense cake which is very moist and goes well with a glass of red wine or Masala Chai/Tea.  The aroma of the freshly baked Plum Cake is so tempting that you cannot wait to cut the cake soon after baking.  But hold your horses and let the cake mature in flavor.  Trust me the fruit of patience is rewarding and you will thank me for waiting.  I usually bake the cake beginning of December and have it wrapped and sit till Christmas for cutting, which helps to develop the right flavor. 



I usually soak a big jar of dry fruits and make several 6 inch cakes and share with family during Christmas season.  You can make these and wrap in nice Christmas themed boxes and give to your family and friends as a Christmas gift with other edible homemade goodies. 





This is my trusted no fail Kerala Plum cake recipe that yields the best Plum cake that suits my family's taste each time when I bake it.

The recipe is using US measurement standards.  Here is the conversion chart you can use to convert it to Metric measurement equivalents.

Yields - a 9'' round or Bundt cake

Ingredients:

To Soak the Fruits
3 cups - chopped dry fruits   (Black &Golden raisins,Black Currants,Prunes,Dates,cranberries, cherries, Pineapple, Apricot, Cashews, almonds)
1 1/2 - 2 cups - red wine  or use enough to soak the fruits

Caramel Syrup
1 1/4 cup - granulated Sugar
3/4 cup - hot water

Fruit Cake
1 cup or 2 sticks -  butter at room temperature
2 1/4 cups - powdered sugar
4 - eggs yolks
  
2 ½ cups - All purpose flour
2 tsp - baking powder
1 tsp - baking soda
1/2 tsp - salt
1/2 tsp - Cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp - Clove powder
1/2 tsp - Cardamom powder
1/4 tsp - Nutmeg powder
1 tsp - Vanilla Extract
Caramel Syrup
1/4 cup - hot water
3 cups - dry fruits soaked in wine


 To Whip
4 - egg whites
2 tbsp -  powdered sugar


Directions:

For Soaking the fruits
  •  Soak the fruits in the red wine at least 3-4 weeks in advance.  Keep them in an airtight container; once a week stir the mix with a clean dry spoon to make sure the fruits are getting soaked well.
Caramel Syrup
  • Take a heavy bottom pan and melt 1 1/4 cup sugar on low flame.  When it started to get light brown color, use a long wooden spoon to mix the sugar well.  The sugar needs to get brown in color without burning.  Lower the flame and add the hot water to the melted sugar.  Be careful, as the melted sugar is very hot and starts to splutter.  The melted sugar will start to crystallize.  Increase the flame to medium heat and let the syrup boil.  This will help the crystallized sugar to melt again.  Once all the sugar is melted.  Turn off the flame and let the syrup cool.
For the Fruit Cake
  •  Preheat Oven to 350°F.
  •  Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices twice and keep aside.
  •  Beat the butter with powdered sugar till smooth and creamy using a stand mixer or electric hand mixer.  Add the egg yolks one at a time until the mix is creamy and fluffy. Add the Vanilla essence and Caramel syrup and smoothly combine everything together.
  • Add 1/4 cup of hot water to the pan where the caramel syrup was made and bring to boil to dissolve any left over caramel.  Let this liquid cool for 5 - 6 minutes.  Add this light liquid to egg butter mix and beat for 30 seconds.
  • Now add the dry ingredients slowly and beat to mix well.
  •  Strain the wine soaked fruits and reserve the wine.  Fold in the fruits into the batter.
  •  Beat the Egg Whites and 2 tbsp. of powdered sugar in a separate clean mixing bowl until soft peaks are formed.  If using a stand mixer, attach the whipping whisk for this step.  Gently fold in the whipped egg whites into the cake batter without deflating much of the whipped egg whites.
  •  Pour the cake batter into greased cake pan and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hr or until a tooth pick/ wooden skewer comes out clean when tested on the center of the cake.
  •  Take the cake out from the oven and drizzle 2-3 tbsp. of the reserved wine over the cake. Allow the cake to cool completely in the pan.
  •  Transfer the cake from pan to a wire rack and brush the reserved wine over the cake.
  •  Wrap the cake with plastic wrap and cover with an aluminum foil and keep in cold dry place.  In between you can brush the cake with left over wine for more flavor till ready to use.
Notes:
  • The dark color of the cake comes from the caramel syrup.  Make sure that the syrup is not burned but has the right color.  A burned syrup can ruin the flavor of the cake.  The color of the caramel syrup should look similar to the dark vanilla extract.
  •  It is very important to whip the egg whites separate and fold them into the batter at the end, otherwise the cake will turn out to be hard.
  • Make sure that the butter is at room temperature but not melted.  The butter, egg yolks and powdered sugar when beaten together should yield a creamy yellow fluffy mix.  Any lumps of butter can ruin the texture of the cake.  I usually leave the butter 15/20 minutes outside at room temperature before starting to make the batter.  While the butter gets to room temperature, you can get all other ingredients ready.  The butter should be retaining the shape of the finger when pressed, that is the right consistency to start with.
  •  I used a dark metallic bundt pan to bake the cake.  The cooking time varies from light aluminum pan to dark metallic pans.  Light metals uses less time than dark metallic pans and glass baking dishes.
  • The longer you soak the fruits, the more flavorful the cake will be.  If you don't have enough time, just soak the fruits is warm wine and bake the cake.
  • The dry fruits should be cut into smaller pieces so that they won't sink to the bottom of the cake.  You can mix 1-2 tbsp of flour to the fruits before mixing into the batter.  This helps to the fruits from sinking to the bottom.
  • I usually bake this cake during winter time, so keeping them in a dark cold place keeps the cake stay longer without spoiling the cake.  If you are not sure how to store it, keep it refrigerated.
  • Since its a butter based cake and has lots of flavor from wine and spice mix, I prefer to warm up the cake for 10 - 20 seconds before serving.  This enhances the flavor of the cake.
  • This is not a soft fluffy cake, it has a dense texture with lots of fruits and nuts.  Due to this texture, it has a tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan.  Make sure that you use a non stick pan or grease the pan well or use parchment paper for easy release.
  • Over baking the cake makes the cake hard.  Under cooking the cake will result in sticky cake.  So it is important to bake the cake to at least 1 hr if using dark metallic pan.  Opening the oven door in between can cause cracks and a dip in the center of the cake, so wait for at least 50 - 55 minutes before checking the readiness of the cake.
  • If you are planning to store the cake for long time, make sure you use the same amount of sugar in the recipe, otherwise the cake will spoil fast.

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