It’s Gokulashtami again and I can’t believe how fast the last year has gone. This Vella Seedai from Store Bought Flour was first prepared by me 2 years ago, when I was with my daughter Lakshmi in the USA, and when it was convenient to make bakshanams from store bought rice flour rather than try the traditional method of homemade flour. The post never got written up as I have been busy with something or the other, and other more seasonal recipes got priority on the blog. It is of course quite late for this year too, but I’m going to write and publish the recipe in the hope that it will help those of you who are in time zones where Gokulashtami is still 2 days away, and you are looking for a suitable recipe for Vella Seedai from store bought flour….
Sweets & Desserts
A foodie’s happiest times are when the berries are all around in abundance, gorgeously coloured: sapphire blueberries, startling pink strawberries, ruby red cherries, like jewels waiting to be snatched off the shelves in the grocery store or the farmers market. Deep red cherries are the hero of this so easy to make Cherry Compote Yogurt Parfait with Granola. It won me lots of brownie points at home. Jump to Recipe
I have been admiring these lovely fresh cherries that I don’t readily get in India (and when I do, only at astronomical prices) and trying to think of a suitable recipe to showcase their sweetness. This easy homemade cherry compote was just asking to be made, and it is so versatile, I’m going to be using it everywhere. Drizzle it on a pancake, slather it onto bread for a sandwich, spread it on a fruit pizza, spoon it on to ice-cream, have it with yogurt – or just eat it straight from the bowl, the possibilities are many. …
This is a step by step guide to making a rich Christmas Fruit cake. Do read the Steps as well as the tips given just below the history of Christmas Cakes here, before you move to the recipe. This will help you plan for soaking fruits as well as for baking the cake.
For a recipe on making an Eggless Christmas Fruit cake, click here.
After posting my guide on how to soak fruits for a Christmas Cake I have followed up with this recipe for baking the rich Christmas fruit cake. Last year I had soaked the fruits in the 3rd week of November, and by the first week week of December it was time to bake the cake, giving a little time for the cake to mature. This year I will try to soak the fruits earlier, in September or October.
This recipe is for a rich Christmas Fruit cake, though it tastes so good, I might just make it several times a year. No more buying dry plum cakes from the local bakery! If you are going to try this recipe, the first thing you have to remember is that you either soak the dry fruits ahead of time (here’s the link to my recipe for soaking the fruits) or at least start the preparation for making the cake a day before you plan to bake it – check in Step 1 below.
The quantities here are for one rich Christmas Fruit cake though I have actually made 3 small cakes – 2 with fruits soaked in rum and one little round one with fruits soaked in orange juice, for my little granddaughter Natasha. I made the batter for the cake and then separated a small quantity for Natasha’s orange flavoured cake.
For a little bit of Fruit cake history – Wikipedia says that some of the earliest known recipes from ancient Rome had pomegranate seeds, pine nuts and raisins all mixed into barley mash! Later on, in what are called the Middle Ages, honey, preserved fruit and spices were added. The recipes varied from one country or region to another, down the ages depending on availability of ingredients locally as well as local customs, church regulations not permitting the use of butter during fasts, etc.
Wikipedia goes on to say that Pope Innocent VIII (1432–1492) finally granted the use of butter, in a written permission known as the ‘Butter Letter’ or Butterbrief in 1490, giving permission to Saxony to use milk and butter in the North German Stollen fruit cakes. It was only in the 16th Century, that the awareness (and availability of sugar from the Colonies) that high concentrations of sugar could preserve fruits) created candied fruit, thus making fruit cakes more affordable and popular.
Now lets go on to our rich Christmas Fruit cake!
There are some preparations to be made before you can actually get to baking the cake, if you want to bring out the best flavours and rich moist softness of the cake without having it brown and burn on one side and remain sticky on the other.
Step 1: Preparing the Dry Fruits : I have given the steps for soaking the fruits well ahead of the baking, in my recipe on this blog, as well as my thoughts on what fruits to select, quantities, etc. Please refer the same for the mix and quantities of dry fruits for the cake. Link to the recipe on this blog: How to Soak Fruits for a Christmas Cake
This recipe is for a traditional rich Christmas Fruit cake, but if you have not soaked the fruits ahead of time, there is a short short cut which you could try – the intense flavour of well soaked dry fruits would not be there, but you would get a nice Christmas fruit cake anyway.
How to bake the rich Christmas Fruit cake without soaking the fruits:
The day before you are going to bake the cake, set the soaking liquid in a saucepan on the stove on low flame. Add the dried fruits and bring the mixture gently to a simmer, keeping the heat low so that the liquid does not boil away. Turn the fruits with the liquid into a bowl, stir it well, and once it cools, cover and keep in a dark cool place. For quantities of fruit and soaking liquid, check my recipe on this blog for soaking fruits for the Christmas Cake.
Soaking liquid: You could soak the dry fruits in alcohol (brandy, rum, cognac, etc) or in unsweetened fruit juice. For Natasha’s little cake I used freshly squeezed orange juice. A combination of orange and cranberry juice or apple juice would be good too. Black tea such as a Darjeeling tea, pre-soaked in cup of very hot water, could make an effective non alcoholic substitute. The dry fruits and nuts are the hero in this cake, The flour, butter and eggs are put to use to hold the fruits together and shape the cake.
Step 2: Preparing the Baking Tin : The recipe below is for an 8″ square tin, or a 9″ round one, or you could bake the cake in smaller tins or a round bundt tin. The Christmas cake is to be baked on low heat for a long time, so that it cooks evenly without burning. It is important to line the baking tin with parchment paper or grease proof paper.
I did not have brown parchment paper so I used the white one, but I have heard that brown parchment is of more use in keeping the cake sides and bottom from browning too fast or burning.
Grease the tin all around and use 2-3 layers of the parchment paper, lining the bottom and all sides of the tin, with an inch or two of paper protruding from the top of the tin on all sides. Some bakers suggest wrapping the outside of the cake tin too, with brown paper and tying it in place, so help ensure the cake does not overcook.
Step 3: Preparing the ingredients:
Check the list of ingredients below for the rich Christmas Fruit cake and ensure you have brought them all, specially the eggs and butter, to room temperature. You may even need to keep the butter out overnight for it to come up to room temperature, depending on the climate.
Measure all the ingredients and keep them ready. Mix the spices in the proportion given in the ingredients below.
Grind the almonds in a processor (unless you are using processed almond flour). Measure the flour and then sieve it along with the baking powder so that the baking powder gets dispersed into the flour. Chop the walnuts into small pieces.
Step 4: Bake the cake: When you are ready to go, set the oven to preheat at 160 deg C (320 F). Prepare the batter as per instructions in the recipe below. As the cake bakes, the liquid in the fruits oozes out and givens the Christmas Cake its moist, soft texture.
This is a crumbly cake but if you bake it correctly you can slice it cleanly. Using alcohol to soak the fruits for the cake is of course optional. The alcohol in the cake evaporates during the baking, however it leaves its flavour behind. As there would still be some residue in the cake, it would not be advisable for expectant mothers or children.
Some tips you may find useful in making the rich Christmas Fruit cake:
Molasses or Syrup: I have used dark molasses in the cake. You could substitute with treacle which is traditionally used in Christmas cakes, and if you don’t have either, use maple syrup or dark honey. The flavour would differ for each of these.
Nuts – I readily had available walnuts and almonds, and the almonds make a nice flour when ground which adds to the texture of the cake. Pecan nuts or hazelnuts or a combination of nuts could be substituted for the walnuts, in the same proportion as in the ingredients list below.
Zest: I have put both orange and lemon zest in the ingredients, to give the cake a lovely citrusy flavour. Whether you use only lemon or both is your option to choose.
Be gentle with the Batter Don’t mix or beat the batter more than required for the ingredients to just combine, as the cake would become heavy. Gently fold in the ingredients.
BakingTemperature and Time: Oven temperatures vary, so you need to keep checking your cake after an hour and a half. When a small skewer inserted comes out clean or with a few dry crumbs, your cake is done. I started my oven at 160 C and after an hour when I saw that the top looked set, I brought the temperature down to 150 C. It took about 2 hours and 15 minutes for my cake to get done.
Storage: I have given the steps for storing the cake after baking, in the instructions below. Do not wrap the cake directly with foil as the alcohol or juice could react with the foil. Wrap in clingfilm and then in foil.The cake is not be refrigerated as it could harden and the sugar in it crystallize. The alcohol in the cake acts as a preservative.
I have not decorated the top of the rich Christmas Fruit cake, as it looks good as it is. I may do so before Christmas, though – a simple decoration of sliced almonds and sliced candied cherries, maybe. Next year I may cover the cake with icing in Christmassy theme.
How to make rich Christmas Fruit cake -Easy Recipe
For the rich Christmas Fruit cake
- 800 gms mixed chopped dry fruits 4 - 6 cups -check my recipe for how to soak fruits, for quantities -link given below
- 500 ml soaking liquid - alcohol or unsweetened juice 2 cups- liquid just to cover the fruits plus extra for topping
- 300 gm butter unsalted at room temperature
- 200 gm dark brown sugar
- 4 Eggs at room temperature
- 2 tablespoons molasses substitute with treacle- see notes above
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon Orange zest
- 300 gm flour plain flour / maida or a mixture of plain and whole wheat
- 1 tea spoon baking powder
- 150 gm almond -ground
- 150 gm walnut chopped small
For the Spice mix
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 teaspoon ginger powder
- 1/8 teaspoon clove powder a Pinch
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Combine the butter with sugar, in a food processor (or mix by hand) until fluffy and creamy, as fluffy as you can make it.
- Crack the eggs (I do this one by one in separate bowl) and add one by one to the butter sugar mixture.
- As the mixture may tend to curdle, it would help if you added a tea spoon of flour or almond flour to the mixture along with the egg. Stir till just combined. Add the molasses, lemon and orange zest, vanilla extract and gently fold it in. Too much of mixing can harden the cake, so fold in the ingredients without stirring the batter.
- Add the almond flour, flour with baking powder, spice mix and fold it in. Fold in the chopped nuts. Finally fold in the soaked fruits.
- Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin, till it reaches about 3/4 of the tin. Stir while pouring to expel any air bubbles.
- Place the tin in the oven and bake for about 2 hours. I baked it at 160C for an hour and then reduced the temperature to 150 C. It took 2 hours and 15 minutes for my cake to bake.
- Check by inserting a small wooden skewer -if it comes out clean or with only a few moist crumbs, your cake is done! If the skewer comes out with sticky crumbs attached, the cake has to remain in the oven for some more time.
- After removing the cake from the oven, when it is still hot, carefully drill a few small holes on top with a wooden skewer. Brush with alcohol or whatever soaking liquid you have used. Set the cake to cool on a wire rack. When completely cool, remove carefully from the tin, separate and remove the parchment papers.
- Wrap the cake with clingfilm and then in a double layer of foil, making sure you have access to the top of the cake for moistening with liquid later on. Do no directly use foil on the cake as the alcohol or citrusy liquid could react with the foil.
- Store the packed cake in an airtight container in a cool dark place. Every 2 weeks till before the last week of Christmas, pour a little alcohol or juice on top to keep the cake moist.
- Use the same liquid in which you soaked the fruits, for moistening it. Eg if you soaked the fruits in rum, top the cake with rum and not other alcohol, to keep the flavours consistent.
- Alcohol infused cakes do not require refrigeration as the alcohol acts as a preservative. If well wrapped, the cake should keep for several weeks.
Ganesh Chaturthi is around the corner and Onam too, and we are all busy planning special sweets and desserts. Make your festival meals exotic as well as healthy, with this Black Rice Kheer Payasam of Forbidden Black Rice flavoured with vanilla and enriched with apricots and pistachio. The result is a delicious festival treat, truly fit for the Gods! As the rice cooks, the aroma wafting through the house has to be experienced to be described! The kheer (pudding) is cooked on low heat for about 40 minutes after the rice is cooked in the pressure cooker. No ghee is used in this recipe. For a vegan version, substitute almond milk for the dairy milk in the recipe.
This recipe was created when I participated in fellow food blogger Teena Sunoj’s mystery box Onam Payasam challenge. The ingredient I found in my mystery box, was Black Rice. I had already made salads using Black rice, and was happy for the opportunity to try out a Black Rice Kheer Payasam for our Onam round up, which was also published that week in the Deccan Herald.
The ingredients in this Black Rice Kheer Payasam are nutritious and healthy as well as delicious. Black Rice is used in Indian kitchens in the North East and in Chettinad cuisine as well as in Kerala. The variety of rice differs from place to place, with some varieties turning a dark purple hue when cooked. In this recipe I have used a Black Rice with purple, black and brown grains, a Heirloom variety from First Agro Farms at Talkad, Mysore. Any sticky Black rice should give similar results though the taste and aroma of the Black Rice from First Agro is truly special.
A little time spent on the net gives interesting information: that Black Rice was first cultivated in China, some Ten thousand years ago, and for hundreds of years was reserved solely for the culinary pleasure of Chinese Royalty and noblemen: hence the name ‘Forbidden Rice’ or ‘Emperors Rice’, as its consumption was not permitted for the common people. The Rice was grown in limited quantities and the distribution carefully controlled.
Black rice may not always be Black, it could be pinkish, brown, purple, grey, or shades in between, and of course, black!. When cooked, some varieties may be glutinous and sticky, due to high levels of amylopectin ( a major component of starch, and made up of glucose units). The black colouring is due the abundant presence of anthocyanin, which is what makes for colourful purple grapes, blueberries, aubergine … You get the picture? Perhaps these ancient Chinese Emperors knew a thing or two: that this Black rice that they reserved for themselves, was highly nutritious, fabled to increase both health and longevity, and in fact called ‘tribute rice’ or ‘longevity rice’ during the Ming Dynasty.
In India this rice is grown in Manipur, and is available in some gourmet stores and on online stores. If, like me, you are lucky enough to live in Bangalore, then you can get the Zero pesticide, non-GMO variety from First Agro Farms.
Black Rice Health & Nutrition: (information sourced from various online sites): Rich in disease fighting antioxidants, contains vitamins like B1, B2, folic acid; essential amino acids such as lysine, tryptophan; minerals including iron,copper, zinc, calcium and phosphorus; anthocyanin- said to help lower the risk of heart attacks by preventing plaques from building up in the arteries, as well as to fight cancer. Ongoing research is being carried out, to support the view that consumption of Black rice can prevent Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes and even Cancer. Low in calories, high in flavonoid phytonutrients, and a rich source of fibre as well as Vitamin E.
Step by step instructions are given in the Recipe below on How to Cook Black Forbidden Rice
Soaking the rice for about 3 hours, reduces the cooking time. The rice could be soaked overnight, however for the variety that I used, 3 hours was more than enough for the rice to cook into a soft and yet chewy texture.
In this recipe for Black Rice Kheer Payasam, the addition of vanilla subtly complements the fragrance of the rice, and along with the Apricots, lifts an exotic ingredient to a delicious, aromatic dish. No ghee is used in the preparation, and pistachios substitute for the traditional cashew nuts. The cardamom is optional as the other ingredients give more than enough flavour and aroma to the sweet dish.
You may like to try out other recipes on this Blog:
Healthy Black Rice Payasam / Kheer with Vanilla and Apricots
For the Black Forbidden Rice Kheer
- 1 cup black rice
- 2 cups water
- a Pinch salt
- 2 cups milk OR 2 cups almond milk for a vegan version
- 1/4 cup milk (extra if required)
- 3/4 cup jaggery Powdered
- 1/4 cup Dried apricots
- 2 pods cardamom (optional)
- 1/2 pod vanilla OR 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons Condensed Milk
For the Garnish
- 2 tablespoons Pistachio nuts Unsalted
- 2 tablespoons Condensed Milk (optional)
- dried apricot slices Reserved slices from ingredients above
How to Cook Black Rice (Time: Soaking 3 hours; Cooking 15 -20 minutes)
- Wash the Rice as you would for any other Rice to be cooked. That is, rinse with potable water, drain, and repeat at least twice or till the water in which you are rinsing the rice, is clear.
- Soak the rice in double its volume of water, for at least 3 hours, to reduce cooking time. Transfer the soaked rice along with the water, to a pressure cooker. Add a pinch of salt to the rice, and pressure cook on high for one whistle. Note: I have retained the water in which the rice was soaked, so that nutrients are not lost.
- Lower the flame and continue to cook for 10 minutes or about 6 more whistles. Turn off the stove and let the cooker cool before opening it, so that the rice cooks completely under its own steam, and all the water is absorbed.
Preparations (Time: 5-10 minutes)
- 1. Slice the dried apricots into small pieces, the size of currants or half of a small raisin. Reserve 1 table spoon for the garnish. 2. Shell the pistachio nuts and Toast them. Slice into thin slivers or small pieces.
- 3. Crush the cardamom seeds keeping them in the pod, so that they can be easily removed whole, while serving.
How to make Black Rice Payasam / Kheer (Time: Cooking 35- 40 minutes)
- While the cooker is cooling down, heat the milk in a thick bottomed pan. Bring to a boil and then allow to simmer on low flame for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, while it thickens. For a vegan version, substitute the milk with almond milk.
- In another pan, melt the powdered jaggery on low flame, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or till the raw smell of the jaggery has disappeared. Crush any remaining lumps and stir so that the jaggery dissolves completely.
- Add the jaggery water to the milk, stir it in. Add the apricots and cook on low flame for 5 minutes, stirring frequently so that it does not catch at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the cooked rice, stir it in. Cook on low flame for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If the payasam appears too thick, stir in 1/4 cup of warm milk.
- Scrape the seeds from the vanilla pod and add, or add the vanilla extract, if using. Add the cardamom. Stir. The Black rice has a heady fragrance, so you may wish to omit the cardamom. Add the condensed milk, cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. For a vegan version, omit this step.
- Serve hot, garnished with pieces of the reserved apricots, some slivers of pistachio and a dash of condensed milk (almond milk for vegans)
I don’t often make sweets and have tried out only a few dessert recipes. However when friend, (fellow CA and fellow food blogger) Paluk Khanna asked for a post as a contribution to the Rakshabandhan round up we were planning, I had to think of an interesting item to make.I finally fixed on making this Saffron Flavoured Badam Halwa.
Everything about this bread is good, the making and baking, the taste, the aroma. I have followed the recipe for Brown butter Banana Cranberry Bread from Joy the Baker, as faithfully as I could except that I reduced the cranberries to 1 cup and used frozen instead of fresh. The original recipe did not specify how to use the crumble, so I added it when it seemed appropriate. Cranberries are chock-full of vitamins and minerals as well as said to have several other medicinal uses, which, Wikipedia says, are however largely unconfirmed by research. Doctor had advised adding them to P’s diet to help heal an internal inflammation, so I pulled out the pack of frozen cranberries from the freezer and scouted out interesting recipes to use them in….
The picture can’t convey the aroma of vanilla, butter and blue berries wafting through the house! The headiest perfume, ever! Easy to make