Baking has become an addiction. The slightest indication of a family gathering, armed with my iPad, I'm ready to crank up the oven. It's a routine I love setting myself into. I do wish I had more occasions to bake bookmarked bread, turnover, quiches, and flat bread pizza, but it's cakes, brownies and puddings that are made often. I would attribute this to my native cuisine. The aforementioned savoury recipes would be best served for tea, never as a meal. The trinity that would complete a Keralite Muslim meal would be meat, either lamb or beef, rice and rice-based breads. The dessert course is my playground and the trend has been that I bake more than cook dessert. Last October for Eid, it was not different.
Every year, the ceremonial Eid Biriyani Banquet was either at my uncle's home or ours. These gatherings were a grand affair with the house being open to not only near and dear ones but also distant family and the assortment of i-see-you-once-a-year relatives. If one Eid was held at my cousins', it was understood that the following Eid would be held at ours. When we were children, us cousins would be huddled together in excitement thinking about playing at Safa Park in the evening. As we grew older, we became an extension of the elderly crowd. My uncle's sarcastic reprimanding subjects ranged from politics to his three sons, all of it being fodder for never-ending laughter in the living room. I would sit on the carpet floor and watch everyone's expressions. It's one of my favourite family memories.
Biriyani lunches always end with Payasam, the jaggery colored and sweetened milk boiled with either green gram, rice flakes (Ada) or broken wheat. A sign of our ageing selves is the diminishing childhood contempt for this dessert. Growing up, our vocal aversions for Payasam were silenced with either custard drenched Fruit Salad or an easy Flan. I know if there is an option for a non-soupy dessert, my cousins would willingly desert Payasam. And a part of knowing them well means I also know they will have both.
That the dessert had to involve chocolate, was a given. How would one make chocolate desirable in a post-Biriyani comatose situation? It should be a bite. A decadent, exquisite bite of chocolate. It would begin with intensely dark fudgy brownies. Butter and sugar will melt and bubble into amber hues. Cream will be stirred and this caramel will smother the brownies. Toasted pecans will be nudged in for mouth-crackling praline. Ganache will be drizzled from unforgiving heights. A final sprinkle of fleur de sel to make everything right. This would be gluttony in a bite.
And what about tea? A month before Eid, on our anniversary, my gift was a shopping spree at Tavola where I checked off half my baking wish list. I now fully understand Umma's love for crockery and cookware when I chose baking pans over jewellery. Another sign of ageing, I guess. There was a beautiful zebra bundt cake that was featured on Bakers Royale a while ago on my other list, the Baking Bucket List. The marbling shown in the photographs was intricately stunning and I hoped to recreate it for this occasion. I knew I had to skip the cocoa in the cake altogether to appeal to the chocolate-rejecting adults.
I decided to think of flavour combinations for a great teatime pound cake. I looked to my pantry for flavour inspiration. Fruity without raisins. Nothing too sweet, with a dash of spice perhaps, to complement tea. I took a day to think about it while doing my chores and slept on it through the night. Usually, a quick scan through my books or my blog roll would have sealed the deal. This time it was different. It had to be unique and it had to be memorable. Cake to accompany tea as light as air. Ginger in the cake along with a light cup of tea should soothe lunch-induced heartburn. Raspberry with its tartness would make it fruity and just the right kind of sweet. Not to mention, it would render a beautiful colour for a swirled cake.
My flight was from Dubai and late into the night, two days before Eid. I had the whole morning to prepare and bake before I drove down to see my parents before catching our flight. So I immersed myself in a whole day of baking. The brownies emerged from the oven with a perfectly crisp, cracked top. Score. While the oven was hot, I tossed in the pecans to toast for a while. The brownies had to be cooled completely before I could pour my caramel sauce. I'd read and re-read successful and failed attempts at making caramel sauce to avoid burnt caramel or worse, burnt skin. The sugar simmered and melded with the butter slowly and I watched it deepening to a sweet amber. Brownies cooled, caramel poured, chopped pecans pushed into the gooey caramel, I had to wait for these layers to cool down completely before drizzling it with ganache.
I started making the batter for my pound cake, a basic one. After separating it into half, I stirred ginger powder in one and raspberry preserves in the other. I used two ice-cream scoops to marble the batters in the bundt pan. While the cake rose in the oven, I prepared the ganache and carelessly whipped the chocolate laden knife in the air watching the disorderly drizzles forming over the caramel layer. Ideally I should have waited for the ganache to cool a bit and further chill the brownies in the refrigerator until completely set. Since I had to drive down to Dubai soon, I had no chilling time which meant when I cut the brownies, the caramel was a bit runny. Nevertheless, those brownies bites were just what I wanted them to be - satisfyingly over the top.
The bundt was out of the oven and had cooled completely and I fell in love with its marbled gradient crumb. I prepared a glaze translucent enough to disappear into the cake while being sticky enough for a handful of slivered almonds. I slivered the teeniest possible slice of the cake to see how the pattern had turned out. I was expecting a ruby red contrast to a pale yellow cake. The raspberry layer colour was a far cry from that. A few drops of red colouring would have resulted in what I had thought it would like but these coral coloured streaks running through the pound had me pleased nonetheless.
Shall we read through the recipes now?
Recipe barely adapted from Joy Of Baking.
- 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 5 tablespoons water
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 cups (200 grams) pecan halves, toasted
- 2 tsp Fleur de Sel
- 2 ounces (55 grams) semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and place rack in the center of the oven.
- Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.
- Melt the chopped chocolate and butter in a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water.
- Remove from heat and set aside while you make the brownie batter.
- in the bowl of your electric mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the eggs and sugars until smooth.
- Beat in the vanilla extract and then the melted chocolate mixture.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and, on low speed, beat in the flour and salt.
- Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 20 minutes, or just until the brownies are barely firm to the touch.
- Remove from oven and place on a wire rack.
- In a heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt.
- Over medium heat, stirring constantly, bring the mixture to a boil.
- Once it boils, stop stirring, and cook the mixture until it turns a golden caramel color, about 10 - 12 minutes.
- Swirl the pan as needed so the caramel cooks evenly.
- Remove from heat and carefully add the cream and vanilla. The mixture will sputter and steam so be careful.
- Stir in the pecans and immediately pour over the still warm brownie layer, spreading evenly.
- Let cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate brownies for about an hour or until the brownies are firm.
- Sprinkle fleur de sel flakes all over set brownies.
- Place the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl.
- Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Bring just to a boil. Immediately pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and allow to stand for 5 minutes.
- Stir with a whisk until smooth.
- Drizzle the ganache over the chilled brownies in a zigzag pattern. Cover and refrigerate until the chocolate is set.
- Using a sharp knife, cut the brownies into bars.
- Corn Syrup is used while preparing caramel sauce to prevent it from crystallising when stirred. I brushed the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush instead. I picked this tip up from Masterchef Australia.
- Ensure the caramel and pecan layer has been chilled to firm in the refrigerator before adding the ganache. You don't want oozy caramel all over your fingers when you cut them in the end.
Ginger Raspberry Bundt
Basic Pound Recipe from Nordicware
- 2 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened and at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, beaten lightly
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 3/4 cup milk, room temperature
- 1/4 cup half & half, room temperature
- 6 tbsp fresh ginger juice OR 1 heaped tbsp ground ginger powder
- 1 cup Raspberry Preserves
- 1 cup confectioner's sugar, sifted
- 1.5 to 3 tbsp of water, depending on how thick or thin you want the glaze to be.
- Handful of slivered Almonds
- In a saucepan, simmer the raspberry preserves and stir gently till the fruit lumps melt, about 2 minutes.
- Set aside to cool to room temperature.
- In a medium size bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
- Stir the milk and half & half together in one container.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer or a handheld mixer, on medium speed, beat the butter for about 30 seconds just until smooth and creamy.
- Gradually add in the granulated sugar. Beat for approximately 5 minutes, until fluff. Stop to scrape as needed.
- Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each one, scraping periodically.
- Pour in the vanilla and beat for about a minute, until combined.
- On the lowest speed, add in the flour alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour, that is 3 equal portions of flour and 2 equal portions of milk.
- Mix each addition only until incorporated, pausing between additions to scrape the bowl and beaters.
- Divide the batter into half.
- Stir in ginger juice OR ground ginger powder in one half of the batter, folding gently till combined.
- Gently stir in the cooled raspberry preserves in the remaining half of the batter ensuring it is mixed well and uniformly coloured.
- Using an ice cream scoop, pour two scoops of ginger batter into pan. Alternate it with one one scoop of raspberry batter on top of ginger batter.
- Continue to alternate between the batter until the bundt pan is filled.
- Bake the cake on the rack set in the lower third of the oven, for about 50 - 60 minutes , until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean, and the cake looks like it's beginning to pull away from the sides of the pan.
- Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let the cake cool for 15 minutes.
- Now pick up the pan by its edges and, still holding it upright, tap it firmly against a hard surface.
- Hold the cooling rack over the pan and invert the two.
- Carefully lift the pan off of your cake, and let it finish cooling on the rack.
- In a small bowl, stir together the confectioners' sugar with water, adding the water a tablespoon at a time until the glaze is the texture you prefer. Add more sugar if needed to thicken it.
- Stir until no lumps at all remain.
- Set the cake on its rack atop a sheet pan, and drizzle the glaze over an almost-cooled cake.
- Add slivered almonds on top of the cake making sure they adhere to the glaze.
- Let the glaze set before slicing and serving the cake.
- Feel free to use your preferred fruit preserve.
- If you cannot find half-and-half, use 2 tbsp of unsalted melted butter stirred in 210 ml of full fat milk as a substitute. I found this on Joy Of Baking.
- Ice cream scoops are not essential, it just makes the marbling patter much cleaner.
Have a good food day!