Showing posts with label Pies and Fruit Desserts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Pies and Fruit Desserts. Show all posts

Friday, November 19, 2010

Spiced Cranberry Pecan Bread

'Tis the season...well almost, but Thanksgiving is just a week away in our neck of the woods, so it's a shame not to start using up the seasonal produce that starts lining up the grocery shelves this time of year. I randomly picked up a bag of juicy and tart cranberries and a bag of fresh pecans, and then set about wondering what to do with them.

While I was clearing out my unforgiving and ever-growing stash of cut-out magazine and newspaper recipes, I chanced upon a  recipe for cranberry walnut bread with a generous dose of spice, which I thought was uncommon for this combo.

Though I've baked with dried cranberries before, I was a little intimidated with using fresh berries, because they are, well, an acquired taste for sure. Their tartness is a little powerful, but more overpowering is the taste of the skin. However, my fears were allayed a little when I saw that Joy of Baking mentioned that something almost magical happens when fresh cranberries bake, they lose a little of their sourness and their skins almost become sweet.

So I baked.

And magic happened :-).

The result was a soft loaf with a pleasing crunchy exterior and buttery interior - even though you don't use that much butter in the recipe! It is almost cake like the day it is baked, over time, it takes on a hearty bread appeal. I love the crunch of the pecans and the just-right tartness of the cranberries. Looks like I have found a go-to recipe for those lazy afternoons post-Thanksgiving lunch when you wonder what to munch with afternoon tea!

Cranberry Pecan Bread
Before anyone screams plagiarism, this recipe was adapted from one printed in the Houston Chronicle, December 16, 2009 that I had once upon a time furtively cut out and filed away. There was no source cited, the recipe was part of an article about making edible gifts for the holidays. The original recipe used walnuts and had quantities doubled for 2 loaves.

Non-stick cooking spray
2 cups cranberries
1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (juice from 1 large orange)
3/4 cups low fat buttermilk
3 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted
1 egg
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup AP flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup pecans (can subst. walnuts/almonds)

For topping:
1/2 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/4 tsp cardamom powder

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Spray a regular loaf baking tin with the non-stick spray.
3. Toast pecans or walnuts in a saucepan over medium heat, or in a pre-heated oven for about 5 minutes. Watch carefully - they burn quickly! Remove from heat and let cool. After cooling, roughly chop the nuts and reserve.
4. Coarsely chop the cranberries and reserve. I had frozen the cranberries right after I bought them from the store, so I found them easier to work with and chop.
5. Whisk together the orange juice, buttermilk and egg in a bowl. Add melted (not hot) butter and stir.
6.  Combine all the dry ingredients in another bowl - whole wheat flour, AP flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and cardamom. Mix together lightly.
7. Pour wet ingredients into dry, combine with a spatula until just mixed. Do not over-mix.
8. Add cranberries and pecans. Gently combine and pour into loaf pan.
9. Mix topping ingredients, sugar, cardamom and cinnamon and sprinkle over the top of the batter.
10. Bake until a tester inserted into the middle comes out clean ~ 50- 55 minutes.
11. Remove from oven and cool before transferring to a serving dish. Resist the urge to cut the loaf while it is hot, it will not slice well.

This entry goes off to this month's Monthly Mingle - Fruit In Baking, started by the uber-talented Meeta of Whats For Lunch, Honey? and hosted this month by the equally talented Deeba of Passionate About Baking. I love the work of both these phenomenal bloggers, as a fellow friend/blogger once said, you leave their blogs positively inspired!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sweet Plantain Fritters

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OK, this snack of deep fried batter dipped-plantains may be a no-brainer for many of you out there - it is such a staple in Indian, Caribbean, Far East and South American homes or anywhere else tropical that plantains can be found.
But whilst I was an expert at EATING them, I actually didn't know how to MAKE them until I started trying it out myself. And since everyone and their mother-in-law from the aforementioned countries and continents had their own way of making the requisite batter, I had to play around a bit before I got it just right.
For me.

I remember my mom mixing rice flour into the batter back in the day. I'm not sure why but I'm guessing the rice flour gives the batter an extra thick quality to allow the plantain slices to be coated evenly.
Ahhhh...the gloppy factor.

Similarly, recently when I visited a neighbor, I caught their nanny sprinkling sesame seeds into the mix as well.
Hmmm - never seen that before, but could be the crunchy factor.

And this is why I will land that high paying job as a Food Editor at a posh magazine and be a celebrity judge at the Aspen Food and Wine event - because I use words like gloppy.

So here is my take on plantain fritters and enjoy these juicy sweet fried morsels for your late afternoon snack, right after siesta =)!

In Kerala, India - these fritters are known as "ethakka boli" or "ethakka appam" - What do you call this snack item?

Sweet Plantain Fritters
3 ripe plantains (look for fairly firm plantains, you don't want them too mushy or over-ripe)
1/2 cup All Purpose flour
2 heaped Tbsp rice flour
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar - Optional (I usually omit the sugar if I find the plantains sweet enough)
Water - to form batter (approx 1/2 cup)
Oil for frying

1. Peel plantains and discard skin, slice the flesh in half lengthwise. Then slice each half into quarters.
2.Mix the AP flour, rice flour, sesame seeds and salt in a bowl.
3. Slowly add water to the dry ingredients , mix to dissolve all lumps and add enough water to form a batter with pouring consistency. The batter should be thick enough to coat the back of the spoon and should not be too runny.
4. Heat oil in a frying pan.
5. When oil is hot, dip plantain slices in the batter, make sure each slice is coated and deep-fry to a light golden color.
6. Drain on paper towels.
7. Serve warm.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nectarine Clafoutis

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Julie and Julia. Julia and Julie.
The movie has quietly taken everyone by storm. Food bloggers are skipping down the streets due to the fact that one of their own got a book deal/movie deal, and OH MY LORD - Meryl Streep even acts in it. Food editors can't stop writing about it and there has been a general resurgence in interest in all things Ms.Childs.
Which is when I step in and finally give Clafoutis a try. KLAH-FOO-TEE.
So I scour the Internet for a recipe, find a gazillion different versions. Get intimidated. Finally settle on Kevin's version. Decide to be indulgent and substitute full cream for some of the milk. We're bloggers! We can do anything!
Then discover that I actually have no cherries on hand.
OK, substitute something else. Ahhhh....a bag of nectarines sits ready for the picking and voila - Nectarine Clafoutis is born.
Meh...
Now, this is purely me, I guess I was expecting a more cake-like dessert - which this is not, it is more of a baked custard texture. It's still good enough for the spouse to scrape all of it to the bottom of the dish, but I shall hold out a little more and try it with cherries a la Julia Childs or pears a la Barefoot Contessa before I join the All Things Bright and Clafoutis Choir. In the meantime, just take a look at what Meeta of Whats for Lunch, Honey drummed up in her raspberry and nectarine version!
Nectarine Clafoutis (slightly adapted from Closet Cooking - Cherry Clafoutis)

1/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 large nectarines, pitted, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
2. Beat eggs into flour mix, one at a time.
3. Whisk in milk, cream and vanilla extract.
4. Arrange nectarine slices in concentric circles in a greased pie dish.
5. Slowly pour the batter into the pie dish taking care not to displace the fruit.
6. Bake in preheated oven for 40-45 minutes or till center is set and edges are golden brown. (Note - the clafoutis will balloon up and be puffy while baking, but will immediately reduce in size when removed from the oven.)