Dec 26, 2012

Baked Stuffed Mushrooms...a perfect bite sized appetizer !

Anyone searching for a quick, simple, easy and tasty appetizer recipe for the New Year bash you are planning?? :-) Well not just New Year's party, these cute and super duper yummy stuffed mushroom bites are going to be the absolute crowd pleaser for any party! Also don't let looks fool you, these taste way better than they look :-)

I had never eaten a stuffed mushroom before. A good friend of ours had served stuffed mushrooms filled with sausage when I was pregnant and thanks to all the stupid internet reading I had done on not eating sausages while pregnant due to nitrates or something, I din't eat them :-(  And Manish couldn't couldn't stop eating them...grrrrrr!!
So the next good chance I got at making them at home , I did not hesitate a minute.
I love mushrooms specially the white or brown button mushrooms, and I have no issues stuffing them with more love !! 
I used Lean ground Turkey for the filling and added some Indian spice to suite our tastebuds and a little bit of cream cheese and parmesan cheese for some creaminess and baked the whole thing until golden and sizzling away , mmmmmmmmm, yummm yummm!!
Another reason I love this recipe is because, the whole mushroom from the cap to the stem is used, full value for your money ;-) 
As I ended up with more stuffing than I had mushrooms, I popped some of the stuffing into sweet colorful peppers and they too make a really attractive and tasty appertizer !

Stuffed Mushrooms Recipe
************************
Recipe Adapted from : The Pioneer Woman

You'll need
White/Brown Button mushrooms - Two 8oz boxes (around 24 mushrooms)
Ground Turkey - 20oz pack (I used Jennie-O Lean ground turkey)
Garam Masala -  ½ or 1 tsp (use as per taste preference)
Red Chilli powder - a pinch or 1/4 tsp (use as per taste preference)
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Oil - 2 tblsp (I use Canola Oil)
Garlic - 4 (crushed)
Onion - 1 medium (chopped finely)
Egg Yolk - 1
Cream Cheese - 3oz (I used theree 1oz individual packs)
Parmesan Cheese - 4 tblsp (Freshly Grated preferred)
Chopped Corriander Leaves - ½ cup
Salt - to taste
Pepper - to taste

Directions:
1. Wash the mushrooms really well and pat dry with a dry towel. Take off the mushroom stems and chop the stems finely into little cubes and keep them aside.
2. Heat the oil in a skillet on medium heat and add the Ground Turkey , let it cook until it turns slightly brown and then add the Garam masala, Turmeric powder and Red chilli powder and some salt and cook for few more minutes, keep it aside to cool.
3. In the same skillet , add the chopped Onions and Garlic and saute for a minute, then add the chopped mushroom stems. Cook until the stems soften , adding water if needed to cook the stems. Season with Salt and Pepper and let it cool a bit.
4. Meanwhile take a bowl, mix together the egg yolk with the cream cheese. Then add in the parmesan cheese, ground turkey, chopped corriander leaves and mushroom stems mix. Mix together well and taste for seasoning.
5. Lay the mushroom caps with the hole facing up on a baking tray and sprinkle the insides with some salt.
6. Take a teaspoon scoop of the stuffing and stuff it into the each mushroom cap. You can overfill a bit :-)
These babies are ready to bake at 350 F for 20-25mins!
7. Bake in a 350F oven for 20-25 mins until they are golden brown !

Note - As I had some more stuffing leftover , I used some sweet bell peppers to stuff them in and they also baked the same time as the mushrooms and tasted absolutley perfect!
They are just out from the Oven...baked golden brown goodness :-)
Suggestions:
1. Actual recipe called for cooking the mushroom stems in white wine, please go ahead and do that if you are not serving these to kids, I'm sure it would taste gorgeous! :-)
2. Also if you want more creaminess, add more cream cheese and Parmesan cheese, I skimped on both, as I wanted the turkey and spice flavor to be stronger than the creamy side.
3. Some of the baking juices from the mushrooms would have come out into the baking pan, but that is ok, just slowly take the mushrooms out into a clean bowl or plate before serving!
4. You may use any ground meat - chicken, beef , pork or mutton for this recipe.
See how beautifully they get stuffed
Try them, you will not believe that this was a simple mushroom that got transformed to a higher culinary level , they are one of my favorites now and for a large group , they make plenty and can be prepared in a short time. So Enjoy and let the countdown to the New Year begin!!! :-)

-Manju

Dec 18, 2012

Traditional Christmas Fruit Cake....with Rum soaked fruits!

Hello my lovely readers. Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings to all !! Are you all enjoying the holiday season? Today I'm going to share a really lovely recipe for a Traditional Christmas (rum soaked) Fruit Cake and two lovely events in my life centered around this cake :-)

My main inspiration to bake a fruit cake was a Christmas Cake Competition held by the Minnesota Malayalee Association (MMA) for their yearly Christmas celebrations. Its a fun gathering mostly of Minnesotan Malayalees and their friends to celebrate and be merry during this Christmas season. Every year they conduct Christmas Tree and Christmas Cake competitions. A lovely Christmas lunch is served followed by a blast of awesome and spectacular cultural events performed by adults and children alike. Events include plays, solo/group dances, solo/group singing and lots of fun activity. Its an event we try not to miss every year. So this time I planned to take part in the cake competition!
Actually I baked two Christmas Fruit Cakes, first one for our Wedding Anniversary , which we cut on a private plane by the way (story coming ahead) and the second cake for the competition for which I bagged 2nd prize...so a lovely read coming up, keep all your chores aside and enjoy the post and the lovely pics :-)
Christmas cakes are usually made well before Christmas, almost a month in advance, and the cake is stored upside down and put into an airtight container. Then a small amount of Rum/Brandy/Sherry is poured over the cake periodically. This is called "feeding" the cake. The cakes usually have red and green candied fruit (tutti-fruitti), raisins and other dried fruit, orange peel , cashews or other nuts, in addition to spices and just enough flour to keep all the fruits together.
During Christmas season, bakeries in Kerala would be selling out these traditional Fruit/Plum cakes in bulk and every house will have atleast 4-5 or more fruit cake boxes, either waiting to be gifted or received as gifts.

Its best if the dry fruits are soaked in Rum/Brandy several weeks/months prior to making the fruit cake, as this allows the fruits to become moist, juicy and absorb all that Rum goodness :-) But I hadn't planned in advance, so I soaked mine for just 2 weeks. We went and bought a bottle of Rum and chopped up the dry fruits and soaked them in the Rum with some Caramel syrup. Here's a before and after shot of how these fruits look 2 weeks later. (By the way, for those who want a non-alcoholic version could use Orange or Grape juice and refrigerate them, from what I've read)
The cake tastes best if baked a few days (if not a month) in advance of cutting it, and that it should be periodically brushed with or sprinkled with Rum/Brandy, to keep the cake moist and to add extra flavor. So I thought of making my cake atleast a week in advance...but due to several factors I couldn't start with baking my cake until 3 days before the event.

And so, after I finalized on my recipe after going over several blogs and friend's recipes, I baked my first ever Christmas Fruit Cake or Christmas Plum Cake or Rum Cake, call it what you like...
I only know one thing, my home smelled 'A'mazing while baking the cake and the taste was so sinfully yummy, it had an exotic flavor from the spices and the rum soaked moist and juicy fruits just melted in your mouth! And we celebrated our Wedding Anniversary with a slice of this fruit cake, cutting it on a plane ;-)

OK, I'm going to digress from my Fruit Cake story here to share my lovely Wedding Anniversary surprise. So we celebrated 4 years of married bliss on Dec 13th and Manish had told me there was a surprise and that we had to reach somewhere by 11:30am and that we could cut the cake there.
As we drove, I had no idea what to expect, specially when it was all snowed out everywhere and he had already mentioned it was not a restaurant or resort. And then he drives into this place which almost looked barren but had lots of private airplanes , some in their hangars, some stationary and some taxiing away. And my jaw dropped when I realised we are going to FLY in a private airplane...and my heart wouldn't stop thumping from the excitement...Lol!!! Best surprise ever , would you agree? :-)
 We had a lovely Pilot and Manish also got a chance to fly the plane for sometime and thus we spent the most amazing one hour flying over Minneapolis and St.Paul downtown, the MSP Airport and Lake Minnetonka. In between we cut the cake and had a slice each. Let me tell you guys, the whole airplane smelled of fruit cake :-) It was so flavorful ! I've shared a few snaps for you all :-) We then had a lovely lunch and went to watch a movie (thankfully our little guy slept throughout the film ;-) ) SO it was fun day to remember for a very long time!
I took the rest of the cake to my office the next day and everyone loved it and some even came for a second and third slice...hehehe!

I baked again for my MMA cake competition The cake would be judged based on Flavor, Cake Texture and overall Presentation and also no Icing for decoration but Rum in the cake was ok :-).
For the cake presentation I wanted a lovely Christmas theme and as I was using a  Red tablecloth with golden thread pattern , I decided to incorporate the same colors in all my decoration along with some Green. And this is what I came up with :-)
There were a total of 8 cake contestants and everyone had beautifully arranged their cakes. It was stiff competition :-) While the judging process was going on, we went and had lunch and I was able to get a quick sneak peak of the inside of my cake...It looked nice and brown and fruity :-) And finally after judging was over, we were all allowed to sample the cakes. Trust me none of the cakes lasted more than 10 minutes on the table :-) It was devoured instantly , and I was soooooo happy when few people came to me and said they tasted my cake and that they really liked it. So I kept my fingers crossed ;-)
After this came the Cultural events and finally the announcement for the winner of the Chritmas Cake. And they announced my name for 2nd prize and I was like, Yaaaayy!! I was soooooo happy and I absolutely loved being a part of it. It was a fun packed day. Thank you so much MMA for this opportunity and memory!

Here's a pic with me walking off the stage with my award, smiling from ear-to-ear! :-) (Thanks a lot to an MMA friend for having taken this snap)
Now coming to the much awaited recipe :-) Like I say in most of my cake recipe posts, do not get scared by seeing the lengthy description of the preparation process. I have written it in detail such that you will understand and I can also remember what I did (for future reference).  And don't forget to read the Tips and Suggestions at the end.
This recipe yields about Two Round 8" cakes or a large Bundt Cake :-) (I bet if we used 6" cake pans, you may get 3 cakes, so its a lot of batter)

Christmas Fruit Cake Recipe
******************************
You'll need
For Soaking the Fruits
Dry fruits  - 3 cups (I used Golden raisins,Black Currants,Prunes,Dates,Glazed Cherries & Pineapple, Apricot, Cashews)
Rum - as required  (I used CaptianMorgan's Spiced Rum ,  Unflavored Dark rum preferred)
Caramel syrup - 4 tblsp (4 tblsp sugar + 2tblsp water)
For Caramel Syrup (to be used in Cake)
Sugar - 1½  cups
Water - 1 tbslp
Hot Water - ¾ cup
For Spice mix
Cinnamon powder - ½  tsp
Clove powder - ½  tsp (crush about 8-10 cloves)
Cardamom powder - ½  tsp
Nutmeg powder - ½  tsp
Jeera powder - ½  tsp
Dried ginger powder - ½  tsp

For Fruit Cake (entire ingredient list)
Butter - 1 cup or 2 sticks (at room temperature)
Powdered sugar (confectioners sugar) - 2 ½  cups
Eggs Yolks - 4
   ****
All purpose flour - 2 ½ cups
Baking powder - 2 tsp
Baking soda - 1 tsp
Salt - a pinch
Spice mix  (as mentioned above)
Coarsely powdered nuts (skinless Almonds and Walnuts) - 1 cup
  ****
Orange Marmalade - 4 tblsp
Orange Zest - 1 tsp
Vanilla Extract - 1 tsp
Caramel Syrup (as mentioned above)
  ****
Rum soaked dry Fruits - as mentioned above
  ****
Egg Whites - 4
Powdered sugar - 2 tblsp

Directions:
For Soaking the fruits
Atleast 2-3 weeks in advance , chop all the dry fruits and place them in an airtight container, soaking them in required amount of Rum and 4tblsp Caramel syrup. For Caramel syrup, heat 4tblsp sugar on medium heat until the sugar melts and browns up. Take off the heat and carefully add the water and stir well and use.

For Caramel Syrup (to be used in Cake)
Starting by heating the 1.5 cups of sugar with 1 tblsp water on medium heat in a deep bottomed saucepan. Shake/stir the sugar once in a while and wait patiently until it slowly melts without any lumps. Keep stirring now and allow it to continue heating until the caramel syrup looks almost dark brown or black in color. Take it off the stove and add the hot water and stir well.
Tip: The sugar syrup will splash out when adding the hot water, so its best to stand away a bit and I used oven mittens on the hand with which I was pouring the water in, to avoid any unwanted burns :-)

For the Fruit Cake
1. Preheat Oven to 350F and grease your Cake pan(s) and cover the bottom and sides with greased parchment paper. (I used a non-stick Bundt cake pan, so I only had to grease the pan)
2. Sift together all the dry ingredients - Flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and Spices. Add the powdered nuts, mix well and keep aside.
3. Beat the butter with powdered sugar until smooth and creamy.  Add the egg yolks one at a time until well incorporated. Add in the dry ingredients slowly and mix until combined.
4. Add the Vanilla essence, Orange Marmalade, Orange zest and Caramel syrup and smoothly combine everything together.
5. Strain the rum soaked fruits (save the rum) , and coat them with some all-purpose flour to avoid the fruits from sinking to bottom of cake and add the fruits into the cake batter , Use a large wooden spoon to fold/mix the fruits into the cake evenly.
6. Beat the Egg Whites (in a clean bowl) until soft peaks form , then add 2 tblsp powdered sugar and continue to beat until the peaks look stiff and glossy and gently fold it into the cake batter.
7. Pour the cake batter into your prepared cake pan(s) and bake for 1 hour. (Mine baked for 1 hr 7 mins) - Each oven is different, so do a cake test at 55 mins - insert a toothpick into the cake center  If it comes out clean, the cake is ready.

After Baking
1. After taking the cake out from the oven, pour 2-3tblsp of the saved rum over the cake. Allow the cake to cool for 15 mins and then flip the cake pan onto a wire-rack.
2. Once cooled release the cake from pan and brush the sweet rum (from the strained fruits) all over the cake.
3. Keep the cake covered with aluminium foil/plastic wrap and everyday brush the cake with more Rum , until you cut the cake.

Very useful Tips and Suggestions:
1. Though its best to soak the fruits several months in advance, soaking them for just 2-3 days is also quite sufficient. They will still absorb most of the rum and the fruits will be juicy and moist.
2. Another method is to boil the dry fruits with the rum and caramel syrup, so that the fruits get tender and still absorbs all the flavors.
3. The Rum mixed with the fruits and caramel syrup has a lot of flavor , so that's the best for brushing over the cake.
4. The blacker your caramel syrup , the darker your Cake will be (we don't want yellow fruit cake now, do we? :-) ) , but be careful not to burn the syrup or your hand :-P
5. The Spice mix adds a lot of flavor to the cake and balances the sweetness from all the caramel syrup and fruits, so don't skip it. You may reduce the quantity if you prefer.
6. The Eggs add volume to the cake and keeps the cake together. If you prefer to use less eggs, then you may have to reduce the quantity of flour too.
7. Placing the greased parchment paper at the bottom and sides of cake pan is very important , it allows the cake from not drying up during the long baking time.
8. If the cake takes longer to bake than 1 hour, cover the cake top with aluminium foil and turn the cake pan and continue to bake and check every 5 mins until done.
9. The Cake flavor and color matures more and more each day. So resist your temptation for atleast 1 or 2 days after the cake is baked :-)
So there you go people, my winning Cake recipe and lots of useful tips, which I used while baking mine.I hope you'll try baking one for this Christmas. And do let me know how it turned out :-)

I definitely had a lot of fun making Christmas Fruit Cake for the very first time and I'm sure I'll be baking one every year from now on! Happy Holidays everyone!!

I'm sharing this cake with my fellow bloggers for the lovely events they are hosting:
1. Cake for Christmas event hosted by Ramya of Ramya's Recipe








2. CC - Holiday Baking hosted by Sravani of Srav's Culinary Concepts







-Manju

Dec 3, 2012

Cake for an Engagement - with Roses !

An Engagement Cake , a cake for an 'actual engagement', one of the most important day in two peoples lives! That's the only thought that kept going through my mind, when my friend asked me to bake a two tiered cake for her cousins engagement two weeks ago. And my cake was going to be a part of this special day, I was nervous and happy at the same time!! :-) So I knew one thing for sure, the cake had to be perfect and hopefully a stunner!! :-)

We chose my Red-velvet cake with Cream cheese frosting, for the bottom tier. And a  simple Vanilla Cake with Strawberry Jam and Vanilla buttercream filling for top tier, cake recipe from here.
She wanted a tall cake (just like the cake I made for my son's 1st b'day party). So I baked two 10" RedVelvet cakes stacked together for bottom tier and two 6" Vanilla cakes for top tier with appropriate fillings..
She loved the Rose pattern which I had done for my Citrus cake with Roses and chose that, any other decorations were left to me. So there , with all that being set, I went about figuring out how to decorate my cake, without over-doing it, but yet keeping it elegant and pretty.
I suggested that we keep a Ring Box with both the rings in it as the Cake topper (as shown in the pics). My idea was that they could exchange the rings , taking it out from the ring box (kept on top of the cake) and then cut the cake, and my friend loved that idea! So I left the top of the cake without any other topper.



My friend and her sister found this cute Pink Rose pouch to hold the Rings, the day before the event, so I decided to go with Pink Roses to match that pouch. I love Pink Roses btw :-)

So finally I decorated the cake with Pink buttercream Roses and a Fish-scale like pattern using Cream Cheese frosting for the top of each cake.


For the pics I took at home, I've shown you with the Black Velvet ring box I had  And this is what my Rose Engagement cake finally looked like  :-).

Disclaimer: The Rings shown in the pics here are mine and Manish's (my hus). Its just for visualization purposes, to show you what I had in mind. These are NOT the original Rings of the couple getting engaged.

Here's a collage I created of the cake cutting for the actual engagement ceremony which my friend happily shared with me and she was totally ok with me posting a few pics for this post.
They have kept the ring pouch on the side of the cake and placed some beautiful 'L-O-V-E' candles over the cake. Looks like they had fun :-) I'm so happy for the lovely couple.
The final result is what always matters to me, no matter how much time it took me to bake-decorate and perfect this cake. I am really satisfied with how it looked when it was finally put together.
My friend said they all really enjoyed the cake and loved the Roses on the cake :-) Infact they had even decorated the party hall with beautiful Roses...aaah, nothing defines Love like Roses!

So my lovely readers, what do you think...do let me know ok !! Who feels like going and getting their loved one a bunch of Roses right now?? :-)

-Manju