Sunday, September 30, 2007

Chicken Biryani – Indian Rice flavored with spices and herbs in ghee & layered in curried meat.

A thoughtful gift from my reader!

The picture below is what Liz sent me for my reference.

I know , some of us food bloggers, have a more or less same or similar morning routine……Waking up next to your loved one……..enjoying the sun rays coming through the window….embracing the new day with lots of hopes and plans…..sipping a hot cup of tea/coffee…..logging in the computer and checking the mails and comments, if any……and sometimes we feel a sense of satisfaction realizing that the recipe we blogged became someone else’s family favourite or sometimes we blush reading a nice sweet comment from one of our fellow bloggers or readers or sometimes a humorous comment lightens up our mood and spirit and very-very rarely a bad or disheartening comment that spoils your mood !

On one such day when I was enjoying my morning tea and CJJ was reading out a few comments I received the previous night, we came across a comment from someone named Liz who introduced herself and said how much she enjoyed my posts and the way she appreciated me, made my day!! She became a regular here and also showed her interest in sharing some of her family favourite recipes with me. In between she kept contacting me through the comment section clearing her doubts on the Blackforest Cake recipe. And one fine day, I received a mail from her with a picture of the Blackforest cake she made, based on the recipe I posted! If you are a food blogger, you can imagine how thrilled and excited I was receiving such a beautiful gift from one of my readers!! The story does not end there, she shared a couple of her family favorite recipes with me and Chicken Biryani was one among them. Liz is married to a Muslim family and when she shared her MIL’s classic Chicken Biryani, that was one more reason to try it out immediately for me who was already on top as this was the first time I received such a gift from one of my readers. I really felt good! Since this Muslim Style Chicken Biryani- Indian Rice flavored with spices and herbs in ghee & layered in curried meat, was a hit at our place, I thought of sharing it with you all. This was a gift for Mishmash! and now this is a gift for you all from Liz:)

Before I go to the recipe writing, let me write something for my non-Indian readers and bloggers. The number of ingredients and the steps involved in cooking might stop you from trying this dish. Cooking Biryani is time consuming and process oriented but it is worth the effort. An easy route to enjoying a Biryani is probably hitting a good Indian restaurant in town, but to relish an authentic Indian Biryani, one has to go through all this process and it is worth the effort, not just because of the taste but the fact that if there is some leftovers, you can enjoy it the next day too and that’s when it tastes the best!! What you might taste from an Indian restaurant is nothing compared to the home cooked authentic Biryani. Recipe follows:

Kerala Muslim Style Chicken Biryani: (Serves 4-5 adults)

Ingredients for cooking rice:
  • 4 cups Basmati Rice (I use Tilda )
  • 8 cups water or more depending on the cooking method*
  • 10 Cloves
  • 8 Cardamom pods
  • 5-7 small ½” inch long Cinnamon sticks
  • 1-2 bay leaves (Optional)
  • A handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
Ingredients for cooking Chicken:
Step 1: To shallow fry the Chicken:
  • 1- 1 ¼ kg (Approx. 2 ½ lb) cleaned & cut chicken pieces
  • ½ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¾ tsp red chilly powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for shallow frying.
Step 2: To prepare the Chicken Kurma
Step 2:A) For the spicy paste:
  • 1/3 cup sliced garlic (Approx. 50gms)
  • 1/3 cup sliced ginger (Approx. 50gms)
  • 20-26 Indian Green chillies (Approx. 75gms) (adjust as per your tolerance level)
Step 2:B)For Sautéing:
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 4 cups thinly sliced big onions (Approx. 300 gms)
  • 2 cups chopped or 2 big tomatoes
  • ½ cup yoghurt
  • ½ - 1 tsp red chilly powder
  • 4 tsp coriander powder
  • ¾ tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/8 cup lightly packed chopped coriander leaves
  • ¼ cup lightly packed chopped mint leaves
Step 2:C) For grinding the Masala Powder
  • 10 cloves
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 3-4 small 1” inch long Cinnamon sticks
  • ½ tsp Shajeera
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 6 mace
Step 2: D ) For the nutty paste (Soak in water for 30 mins before grinding)
  • 15 whole cashew nuts
  • 5-10 almonds
  • 1tbsp poppy seeds
For layering & garnishing:
  • ½ cup raisins (preferably golden raisins)
  • ¼ - ½ cup cashew nuts
  • 1 medium size big onion, thinly sliced
  • 3tbsp + 2 -3 tbsp ghee + more ghee/ oil for frying onions
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 2tbsp warm milk
For the aromatic masala powder:
  • 2-3 cloves
  • 2 cardamom pods
  • 3-4 small ½ “ inch long cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • Make the Chicken Kurma : To shallow fry the chicken first, make a marinade with turmeric powder, red chilly powder, garam masala and salt with some drops of water and apply it on the chicken pieces and leave it in the room temperature for 30 minutes and then shallow fry in oil, not more than 4 minutes, including both the sides. This phase of cooking is done mainly to enhance the taste of the chicken as well as to keep the pieces slightly firm in the cooking process to follow.

    In a big cooking vessel, heat 2 tbsp ghee and sauté thinly sliced onions, until golden in colour; make a fine paste of ginger, garlic and green chillies (Step 2: A)and add the same to the cooked onions and sauté till they turn a nice brown colour (Note: This will fetch you a darker brown colour for the chicken Kurma, as shown in Liz’s picture. I did not cook till they turned dark brown and hence the lighter shade for my Kurma.) At this stage, add tomatoes and mix well; add chopped coriander leaves and mint leaves and combine well; add the ground Masala powder (Step 2: C), chilly powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder and mix well with all the ingredients and sauté, until the raw smell of the spices is gone, for a couple of minutes. This is base of the Chicken Kurma masala and it will be dark brown in colour. Once the raw smell is gone, add the shallow fried chicken and cook covered in medium heat. If the chicken was not shallow-fried for a longer time, then this stage will produce some water from the chicken, during the cooking time; but if the chicken is dry and there is no gravy at all, cook with very little water and salt. When the chicken is half-done, add the yoghurt and cook covered and when it is almost done, just before turning off the stove, add the nutty paste of nuts, almonds and poppy seeds (Note: Nuts, almonds and poppy seeds should be soaked in water for 30 mins before grinding them into a fine paste) and cook for a couple of minutes. Chicken should not be overcooked at all or it should not fall off the bones. The Kurma will be a thick, creamy and rich gravy. (Note: Adding the nutty paste will change the really dark brown colour of the chicken kurma to a lighter shade.)

  • Cook the Rice:
    Microwave Method:Wash Basmati rice well. In a microwave safe bowl, pour 8 cups of water, add rice and whole spices mentioned above, in the respective section, along with bay leaves and a handful of mint leaves and salt to taste and cook until the rice is just cooked. Since my microwave compatible bowl is not large enough to accommodate so much of rice and water, I halve the ingredients, i.e 2 cups of rice and 4 cups of water with half of the spices and herbs and microwave for 23 minutes. This way, you can make sure that no two grains stick to each other. Immediately after the microwave cooking, using a fork, gently separate the rice, so as not to get sticky and sprinkle 2 tsp fresh lemon juice. Please note that you should halve the quantity for lime juice too, if you are cooking the rice in two batches.
    Stove-top Method: Liz follows stove top method for cooking rice and she does that in the old fashioned way where in a huge vessel is heated and when water is fully boiling, add the washed rice and whole spices and herbs and cook the rice uncovered, for 12-15 minutes. When the rice is cooked (do not overcook), drain the excess water immediately and sprinkle the fresh lemon juice.
  • Prepare the garnish:
    For the aromatic masala powder used in between the layers, heat 2tbsp ghee and fry the whole spices, mentioned in the respective section; and grind these into a fine powder. Save this ghee in a small bowl for later use.

    Fried Nuts and raisins: In the same pan, add 3 tbsp ghee, fry the raisins, stirring continuously until they turn plump or look like golden grapes and keep them aside; fry the cashew nuts in the same oil, till they turn golden in colour and keep aside.

    Fried caramelized onions: Add more ghee or oil to the same pan, to fry the thinly sliced onions till they become golden brown; at this stage sprinkling a pinch of sugar to the onion, while frying, to get a taste of nice caramelized onions is a good idea; remove the fried onions from the oil with a slotted spoon and let them drain on paper towels.

    Saffron Milk: Heat 2 tbsp milk and a pinch of saffron
  • Get your work-area ready for layering with Chicken Kurma, spices and herb flavored cooked rice, fried nuts, fried raisins, fried onions, saffron milk, ground aromatic masala powder and the leftover spice flavored ghee and some 2-3 tbsp fresh ghee and finely chopped fresh coriander leaves.
  • Final layering: This Chicken Biryani can be prepared either in a conventional oven or through the Dum method. Click here, to get a better idea for the Dum Method. Choose your cooking method and depending on your choice, choose your cooking vessel. Grease your cooking dish generously with some ghee. Randomly place some chicken pieces along with gravy in the bottom of the dish; then spread some cooked rice, (do not stack); sprinkle a pinch of ground aromatic masala powder; some fried nuts, fried raisins, fried onions and finely chopped coriander leaves; sprinkle some spice flavored leftover ghee (the one used for frying the spices for making the aromatic masala powder) and also a few drops of saffron milk. Repeat this layering process 3 or 4 times, depending on the quantity of the rice and meat as well as the largeness of the vessel. Reserve some fried onions, nuts and raisins for final garnishing before serving.
  • Final cooking:
    Conventional Oven Method: Preheat the oven to 350F. Close the oven safe dish with aluminum foil and bake for 20-30 minutes.

    Dum Method: Perfectly seal the lid with the dough and cook in low heat for 20-30 minutes.

  • Serving: After the final cooking, keep the dish covered for minimum 30 minutes. Ideally, a window of 30 mins to 2 hours is suggested, to get a better taste, and for all the flavors to set in thoroughly. Place your individual serving platter; Just like you slice a cake, dig with a bigger serving spoon and transfer it to the serving platter; you should not mix the rice and meat; it’s already layered and hence just transfer it to the platter and garnish with some fried onions, nuts and raisins. Serve with Raitha (Coarsely chopped onions, tomatoes and cucumber mixed in yogurt and seasoned with a dash of salt and pepper), Indian pickle, Pappadam (Indian wafers) and a chilled Diet Coke or Pepsi :)
Cooking Schedule I Followed :
  • Cut and clean the chicken; marinate the chicken pieces.
  • Chop the onions, cut the tomatoes peel and slice the garlic, ginger and green chilly, and chop the herbs.
  • Make the spicy paste of green chilly, ginger and garlic
  • Soak the cashew nuts, almonds, and poppy seeds
  • Grind and powder the Masala powder
  • Shallow fry the chicken
  • Prepare the Nutty paste
  • When half of the chicken is fried, start sautéing the veggies and make the base masala for the Chicken Kurma
  • Prepare the chicken Kurma.
  • While chicken is being cooked, wash and cook the rice with spices and herbs.
  • Fry the whole spices in ghee and grind and powder them into aromatic masala powder and reserve the leftover ghee.
  • Fry the nuts and raisins and onions
  • Prepare the saffron milk.
  • Get the work area ready.
  • Final layering
  • Final Cooking

Verdict & Recommendation: When I finished preparing the Chicken Kurma, I was sure this is going to be a super hit in our place and when I finished cooking and served it , the first response was, ”Adipoli” meaning ”Excellent”!!. It has a nice aroma and the Chicken Kurma is medium spicy which gives a distinct character to the Biryani. The chicken Kurma on its own is very tasty and can be served with Nan or Roti (Indian breads). Though the rice preparation is different from the general method of washing and draining the rice and then roasting that in ghee along with whole spices, it does not reduce the look or taste of the flavored rice. I will be making this again on special occasions and to treat my friends and guests. Liz suggests one more method to make the look appealing; she suggests mixing some lemon juice with a pinch of turmeric powder or saffron and add it to ½ cup cooked rice and reserve and sprinkle this on the top layer to get some colour, as she has done in her picture. This dish taste better the next day but since we cannot serve one day old food to our guests, better to prepare it in the morning if guests are invited for dinner! The amount of ghee given in the recipe is my personal choice , one is free to use more than the noted measurements, it will only increase the aroma and taste.

I have thanked Liz enough already for this very sweet gesture of hers but it is ok if I tell this one more time, "Thank you, sweetie :) "

On another note, I thank all of you who dropped a comment checking on me and visited my blog the last one week. Thanks a lot for showing interest and I appreciate that a lot. Now that I am back, I will catch up with all of you in your blogs :)



No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Meat Rolls in White Sauce.

UPDATE : Meat Rolls "cooked" in White Sauce :)

Sushmita Sen OR Aishwarya Rai?

Brad Pitt OR Matthew McConaughey?

Halle Berry OR Scarlett Johansson?

Though some of us are very clear about our personal choices, it is complicated to really make a comparison between the two, isn’t it?

It’s same case with the Meat Cutlets (Indian meat croquettes) and the Meat Rolls cooked in white sauce!! Truly!! Though they look almost similar and can be deceptive to a great extent, both have a personality of their own…..….when meat cutlets are usually medium-spicy, meat rolls cooked in white sauce has a neutral taste for the reason that white sauce mellows down the flavour and heat of the spices
and the boiled mashed egg gives a texture that is completely different from the meat-loaded cutlets. Someone who tries to associate the taste of the meat cutlet with the similar object in the plate will be thoroughly disappointed at the first bite itself. Hence I suggest you giving a proper orientation to your target audience before serving this appetizer/snack.

This recipe was passed on to me by my mother who perhaps is more excited about my blog than the owner itself. Sometimes I wish she could start a blog of her own and share her passion for cooking and her wonderful recipes!! She not only shares her recipes with me, sometime she also suggests how I should present or garnish a dish!! And she competes with CJJ in giving constructive criticism of my work. Trust me, there were times I was forced to cook and photograph the same dish again and again just because one of these critics thought the onions were not pale enough or the gravy does not have the right consistency or the right colour!! And my mother like all the loving mothers out there, has this blessing of sharing a recipe in their most preferred way, i.e, “…ohh, it’s very simple… you sauté ‘this’ and ‘that’……...add ‘a pinch of this’ and ‘a dash of that’......stir well, then again pour that and you ‘re all set!" !!!! Hey , she does not stop there, the dialogue continues, “….and I think this is really an interesting one for your blog….you may garnish by placing ‘this’ or ‘that’ on top.” !!! :-) Sometimes she watches the cookery shows aired in Malayalam Channels and notes down the recipes for me but expecting her to point out the proportions and measurements is still futile and this is one such recipe, from those shows, shared where she provided the basic framework for me to work with!

Ingredients: (Makes about 7-9 rolls)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 3 tsp All-purpose flour/maida
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ¾ tsp Garam masala + a pinch or two, if required
  • ½ tsp Chilly powder
  • ½ tsp Pepper powder + a pinch or two, if required
  • ¼ cup finely chopped Cilantro/Coriander leaves
  • 4-5 finely chopped small pearl red onions/shallots
  • 2 or 2 ¼ cups cooked and minced chicken or beef
  • 1 hardboiled egg mashed
  • ¾ cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg beaten (or just the egg white)
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
  • Make the White Sauce: In a hot pan, melt the butter, add all-purpose flour/maida and make a roux or stir until it thickens without any lumps and add milk to make the white sauce. (Note: You may remove the pan from stove to stir in the flour and milk.)
  • In a low flame, add garam masala, chilly powder , pepper powder and coriander leaves to the white sauce and stir well; add finely chopped onions, mashed boiled egg and cooked minced meat and combine everything well. Do a taste-test here and adjust salt and if the spices are not enough for your palate, add a pinch or two of garam masala and pepper powder and turn of the stove. (Note: For the minced meat, I pressure-cook cubed chicken breast or beef with a simple marinade of salt, pepper powder, a couple of green chillies, ginger and garlic and when cooked and cool enough, mince them in a food processor).
  • When the mixture is warm or cool enough to touch, divide the mixture into 7-9 balls and shape them into a tube, as the ones in picture or slightly bigger than that. If the mixture does not hold together, add some bread crumbs in very smaller quantity. (Note: I did not face any issues like that with the above measurements).
  • Keep a bowl of bread crumbs and a bowl with beaten egg ready. Dip each of these meat tubes into beaten egg and then roll the tube in bread crumbs, making sure to coat all the sides evenly. Do this one by one. Do a final shaping of meat-rolls one more time, removing excess bread crumbs from the rolls. Shallow fry the meat rolls carefully in low-medium heat. Serve warm with ketchup or pickled onions. "Some" at my place feel that this taste better the next day :)
A good evening snack for your kids….a great appetizer for your dinner parties, especially kids parties…..and best for those who does not like to have spicy snacks! Wrap them in a Chappathi (Indian bread) or Tortilla or Pita Bread with some fresh veggies and there you go with your picnic lunch!! :)


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

White Cake, Orange Zest, Whipped Cream & Crystallized Flowers – Romantic or Heavenly?

Wondering if I am on a baking spree? Not exactly! It’s been a season for celebration, birthday and anniversary, and we have been indulging ourselves in some sweet luxuries. Baking cakes on special occasions has been a small sweet-tradition I have been following ever since I learnt to bake a cake properly. Hence when it was time for one such special occasion (I know…u can make out that from the design of this cake!), I asked CJJ what he wanted exactly and the answer came quickly,”Something very simple…some sponge cake…. Yellow-ish….white-ish type”. Baking an ordinary plain cake did not sound all that exhilarating to me….so to make it a bit more exciting, I gave him a very vulnerable choice to add orange zest and as expected, the answer was positive. Next thing I saw myself giving him another option, tickling his memories of a whipped cream covered Black Forest Cake which I made recently. Well, one thing led to the other and finally we ended up with a White Cake flavored with orange zest covered in whipped cream and topped with candied flowers and leaves, which did bring smiles on his face!

I don’t know if there is one single recipe for White Cake flavored with orange zest covered in whipped cream and topped with candied flowers and leaves; this was something I customized to suit our palate which usually has a strong inclination towards some simple light cakes compared to heavy cakes covered in butter cream. Experts can make your own variations; beginners, you may stick to the basic cake recipe, with or without orange zest. Adding lemon zest is also a good idea.

White Cake with Orange Zest

(Recipe Source: “Wedding Cakes You Can Make” by “Dede Wilson”)

  • 1 ¾ cups cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp Vanilla extract (Original recipe suggests 1 tsp)
  • 1 tbsp Orange zest (Not required if you want a plain basic white cake)

For the moistening Orange Syrup:
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tbsp Orange juice ( I used Tropicana)
For Filling and frosting:
  • 2 cups heavy (double) cream
  • 3tbsp Confectioners Sugar
  • 1tbsp Orange Juice (I used Tropicana)
  • To Make the Cake: Preheat the oven to 350F. Prepare cake pan by lining the bottoms with parchment paper and grease the sides and sprinkle lightly with flour. Note: I used a single 8-inch heart shaped cake pan, and it was correct; the original recipe calls for two 6-inch round cake pans.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; Set aside.
  • Whisk together the egg whites and milk in a small bowl and set aside.
  • Beat the butter for about two minutes, until soft and creamy. Add the sugar gradually and beat until very light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the bowl once or twice and then add the vanilla and combine well.
  • Add the flour mixture in 4 additions, alternately with the egg white + milk mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and beat until smooth on low –medium speed after each addition.
  • Pour the batter to the prepared pan and bake for 25 minutes until a toothpick/skewer comes with a few moist crumbs or none. The edges will be barely tinged with brown and will have begun to come away from the sides of the pan.
  • Cool on racks in pans for 5 minutes and unmold directly onto racks and peel off the parchment paper and let it cool completely.
  • To make the Orange syrup: In a small saucepan, stir together water and granulated sugar over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Turn off the stove and let it cool completely. Add the orange juice just before assembling the cake. Note: The moistening syrup can be made in advance but should not be flavored with orange juice until right before using.
  • For Filling and frosting: Combine heavy cream, confectioners sugar and 1 tbsp Orange juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl and beat on medium-high speed, until it forms soft peaks. Note: I made the mistake of overbeating the cream which changes the texture of the whipped cream, so do not make the mistake I did.
  • Assembling the cake: When completely cook and ready to assemble, split the cake horizontally using a serrated knife or a cake leveler. Brush 3 tbsp Orange syrup onto the top of each cake layer and spread about ¾ cup whipped cream evenly over the first cake layer. Now place the second cake layer and frost the entire cake, sides and tops, with the remaining whipped cream. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving. Note: To be on the safer side, I applied a very thin layer in the beginning to lock in all the crumbs and immediately after that final frosting was applied. If still few crumbs are visible, use a toothpick to remove those crumbs.
  • Decorate: You can decorate your cake anyway you want; let me write down how I did it!! . I tried to create some “ripples” (Really?? Does it look like that?? ) on top by moving the spatula in a back and forth action. You can do this with a spoon too. It is difficult to achieve a smooth surface when you work with whipped cream, unlike butter cream. To create a simple, attractive and romantic look, I made some crystallized flowers and leaves and placed on one side. Before placing the flowers and leaves, pile up some whipped cream, wherever you wish to place the flowers, to gain some height and then arrange the flowers, to have a neat look. (HOW TO for Crystallized flowers follow.)

Crystallized flowers/Candied Flowers/Sugar Frosted Flowers.
(Source: “First Steps in Cake Decorating” by “Janice Murfitt”)
  • 1 egg white
  • 1 cup extra fine sugar (Not powdered)
  • Fresh Flowers preferably EDIBLE flowers.
  • Mint Leaves
  • A Small Paintbrush – Food safe.
HOW TO: Make sure that the flowers you pick are edible ones and not a poisonous variety. Great care must be taken to ensure that no insecticides has been sprayed which means, flowers from your garden are the most preferred ones as you know your flowers for sure! Wash and dry the flowers without any bruises on petals. Whisk the egg white until frothy. With the paint brush, apply beaten egg white evenly over the petals on both sides. Holding the flower above another bowl, spoon some superfine sugar lightly over the flowers on both the sides. Gently shake off the excess and place them gently on a wire rack covered with paper towel. Frost the leaves also in the same way. It will take 1-2 days to dry completely. The flowers will have the best shape if allowed to dry upside down. Some edible flowers are roses, lilacs and violets. Browse for more options. This is also a great idea for decorating individual cupcakes. Check out Annita’s for a pictorial.

Baking Schedule I followed:
  • Made the crystallized flowers 2 days in advance, so as to get them fully dried on the day of assembling and frosting the cake.
  • Baked the cake one day in advance and when completely cool, double wrapped in a plastic wrap and kept at the room temperature.
  • Made whipped cream just before assembling everything.

Verdict: The White Cake, with a light and delicate taste, is best for tea time. It is soft and has a nice texture. When flavored with citric zest, it gives that extra kick to the cake and when frosted with whipped cream and sugar frosted flowers, it presents a simple, informal, lighthearted look and romantic touch to the occasion, if baked in a heart shape. The moistening syrup is not required if you are not planning to layer and frost the cake. The orange flavor is not overwhelming if you stick to the measurements. The lightness of the cream and the smell of the orange, with a soft and moist cake give a completely fresh and light feeling. Simple & Easy. An addition to my baking repertoire and a topper in CJJ’s favorites :)

A good recipe…..some cool practical ideas……..a bit of patience……frost with tons of love and care…that’s all you need to bring surprise and smile on your loved ones’ face and make your special days sweet, simple and romantic ! :)


No part of the content ( articles, photographs, recipes) of this blog may be reproduced without my written permission.Copyright © 2007-2010 All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Black Forest Cake OR Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte

Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, quite an impressive and elegant name, right ? :) The literal translation of the same, as per Wiki, is "Black Forest cherry cake" and it is a popular dessert in Germany and throughout the world, generally known as Black Forest Cake or Black Forest Gateau. It is a layered sponge cake with two complementary flavours of chocolate and cherry, frosted with whipped cream and flavored by Kirschwasser Or Kirsch, a cherry liquor which is one of the main ingredients.

While pondering on my options to bake a cake to celebrate a special occasion in my life, the idea of Black Forest Cake struck my mind and got glued like anything. I wanted an authentic recipe and my first impulse was to contact my aunt in Germany, who is a Deutsche lady but rewinding the telephone conversations we have had in the past, I thought it is better not to get into an adventure, to get a recipe even before all that baking escapades to follow. Whenever I call my uncle and if she picks up the phone, we greet each other saying “Hello” and “how re you?” and after that we both start giggling and laughing, wondering what to say next, as she is not at all comfortable in English and I cant speak her language too. During my childhood, my father taught me to greet her saying, “Guten Morgen ”, on one of her visits to our place and I still remember her straight-face when I uttered that word. Now I understand that my accent was too weird for her to understand what I said was a German word or not!!!! :) :) After that incident, I never ventured out to impress her with my multilingual proficiency!!

Being a product of Google generation, my next option was to depend on the World Wide Web and I did hit the jackpot itself!! I came across Simply Anne’s , with lots of her sweet celebrations and Anne had a post on her family favourite Black Forest Cake. Since she had not given the recipe in the post and I could not find those books she mentioned, in our library as well, I mailed her requesting the recipe and the next morning when I woke up, I had a mail from Anne with the recipe!!! I was extremely excited and when I approached her again with few doubts, she mailed me the scanned copy of the recipe from that particular book!! I admire and appreciate Anne’s responsiveness and her generous nature. Anne is an exceptionally talented baker and you will be surprised to learn that she is self-trained in cake decorating, if you check out her beautiful creations.

I am sure some of you will have the same doubts I had, when you go through the ingredient list for the sponge cake layers, which yields two 9-inch cakes. The answer is, as per the book, “Light airy sponge cake layers obtain their height from vigorously beaten eggs, which form a network of bubbles that rise in the heat of the oven. “and it is absolutely right! I used two 8-inch cake pans and my cakes had enough height. Here goes the recipe and I have tried to give maximum details as per the original recipe from the book, hoping it will help you enjoy this cake as much as we enjoyed :)


For Chocolate cake layers (makes two 9-inch cake layers):
  • ¾ cup (3 oz or 90g) cake flour (Not all-purpose Flour)
  • ¼ cup ( ¾ oz /20g) Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp instant coffee powder
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 6 large eggs separated at room temperature
  • 1 cup (8 oz/ 250 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence/extract

For Cherry Syrup:
  • ¼ cup (2 fl oz/60ml) water
  • ¼ cup (2 oz/60 g) granulated sugar
  • 2tbsp Kirsch OR Kirschwasser
  • ½ lb (250g) Bing cherries or any fresh sweet cherries, pitted and halved and some for garnishing.
For Filling and frosting:
  • 2 ½ cups (20 fl oz/625ml) heavy (double) cream
  • 3tbsp Confectioners Sugar
  • 1tbsp Kirsch OR Kirschwasser
  • For the cake: With rack in the middle, preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Prepare two 9-inch cake pans by lining the bottoms with parchment paper, butter the paper and grease the sides and sprinkle lightly with flour.
  • Combine cake flour, cocoa powder, coffee powder and salt; sift the dry ingredients. This process help to combine the ingredients better and aerates the flour.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine egg yolks and ½ cup of the granulated sugar and beat on medium –high speed for about 3 minutes or until thickened, pale yellow and when the beater is lifted, the batter should fall back on itself like a ribbon. Stop the mixer occasionally and scrape down the bowl sides. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  • In another large mixing bowl, add the egg whites and beat on medium speed until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue beating for about 2-3 minutes, until the whites look shiny and smooth and form soft peaks. Turn the mixer on medium speed and beat in the remaining ½ cup sugar at a rate about 2 tbsp every seconds. After the sugar has been incorporated, beat the whites for 1 minute longer and when you stop the mixer and lift the whip, the peaks will be firm and straight or will be looking like stiff peaks. Note: It is important that the egg whites are beaten in a clean and dry bowl without any trace of grease/fat/water; otherwise the whites will not expand to its full volume.
  • Add one-third of the egg whites on the top of the yolk mixture and using a rubber spatula, fold the mixtures together very gently, (Do not beat) until no white streaks are visible. This first addition will light the batter. Add the remaining egg whites to the mixture and fold them again until egg whites are thoroughly combined.
  • Next, fold in the flour mixture in 4 additions. Sprinkle about one-fourth of the flour mixture over the egg mixture and then using a spatula, fold in the flour mixture, until no streaks of cocoa powder are visible. Repeat with the remaining flour mixture. The batter towards the end will be light and foamy. Note: Sprinkling the flour makes the folding easier and this step takes a bit of patience and time. The dry ingredients are added in small quantities to prevent their weight from deflating the egg mixture.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared pans, dividing it evenly and bake the cake undisturbed for 18 minutes. If the cake looks set and the surface is slightly browned, touch the tops gently. If they feel firm, insert a skewer or toothpick and if it comes out clean then the cake is done or if it comes out wet or with crumbs clinging to it, bake for another 2-5 minutes until the skewer comes out clean. Note: The baking time varies from oven to oven, and also depends on the pan size and positioning in the oven. The thumb rule is to bake until the skewer or toothpick comes out clean.
  • Let the cakes cool in the pans for 15 minutes and later invert them onto a wire rack and let it cool completely for about 45 minutes. The cake layers will shrink lightly as they cool. The cakes are now ready to be filled and frosted.
  • To Make the Cherry syrup: In a small saucepan, stir together water and granulated sugar over low heat until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot. Stir in 2 tbsp Kirsch. Remove from the stove top and add pitted and halved cherries to the syrup and let it sit for about 30 minutes. At this stage, sieve the cherry mixture and separate the cherries and let the syrup cool.
  • For Filling and frosting: Combine heavy cream, confectioners sugar and 1 tbsp Kirsch in a stainless steel or glass bowl and beat on medium-high speed, until it forms soft peaks.
  • Assembling the cake: Cake should be completely cool before applying the frosting. When ready to assemble, brush 3 tbsp Cherry syrup onto the top of each cake layer and spread about 1 ½ cups whipped cream evenly over the first cake layer and arrange the cherries (the ones saved from the syrup) in an even layer over the whipped cream and press gently to level the filling. Now place the second cake layer and frost the entire cake, sides and tops, with the remaining whipped cream. Note: To be on the safer side, I applied a very thin layer in the beginning to lock in all the crumbs and immediately after that final frosting was applied. If still few crumbs are visible, use a toothpick to remove those crumbs. Decorate the top with chocolate shaving and fresh cherries. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
To Make the Chocolate Shavings: In a microwave, place your favourite chocolate bar (without nuts) and warm for 15 seconds and check if the edges of chocolate give slightly to gentle fingertip pressure and if not, warm for another 10-15 seconds until it reaches the right stage mentioned earlier. If chocolate bar is at the room temperature, it will take only 15-20 seconds. Now place a parchment paper on the counter and holding the chocolate in one hand, using a vegetable peeler, pull the peeler gently and firmly. Repeat the process until you get the required amount of shavings. If the chocolate firms again as you work, you can reheat the chocolate bar again in the microwave. You can make the chocolate shavings in advance and store in an airtight container at room temperature.

To Make the Chocolate Leaves: You can decorate your cake anyway you want. I wanted to have some chocolate leaves. The best method to make chocolate leaves is to melt some chocolate in the microwave and brush the melted chocolate on to any non-toxic leaves (without any traces of water), leave them on a parchment/wax paper and refrigerate until chocolate harden. Peel away the leaves gently and one side of the leaf will have all the impressions of the fresh leaf, including the veins. Rose leaves and ficus leaves are said to be non toxic. Since I don’t have a rose plant, I tried with my bonsai ficus leaf and the result was quite impressive but since I was not sure of the non toxic aspect of the bonsai variety and also did not want to use up all those leaves, I resorted to another easier method for which I melted the chocolate ( I used chocolate chips and melted at 30 seconds intervals until it reached the creamy consistency) and poured it into a plastic bag, pushed it into a corner and snipped off the edge a bit and squeezed out, on to a parchment paper, to make leaves. You can follow a free –hand method or draw your desired shape first and then spread the chocolate. Refrigerate until firm and ready to decorate. You can make this in advance and refrigerate in an airtight container.

I suggest the first method, if you can find non-toxic leaves, as that gives a natural look to the leaves which will come in various sizes and impressions.

Verdict: This recipe is a keeper for sure and a new addition to my baking repertoire. I will be making this again, during the cherry seasons for sure. The two complementary flavours of chocolate and cherry, marrying the refined Kirsch flavoured whipped cream with the mild and delicate cocoa flavour emanating from the Dutch-process cocoa powder, used in chocolate cake layers, gives a light, airy and delightful taste to the cake, tempting you to go for one more slice. It does not have an overwhelming flavour of Kirsch as well. I could never stop with one slice! The sponge cake has a nice homemade texture which is not overly moist and sweet, unlike the box cakes. It is to be noted that the texture of the cake mainly depends on the way it is beaten. I used a hand mixer and still it yielded a good texture but I am sure, if a stand mixer is used, then it must be real spongy and not at all an effort to beat to get the stiff peaks from the egg whites. The only challenge I faced was, one of the cakes got stuck to the parchment paper and had to separate it, which has never happened to me and I still don’t know the reason. I recommend this recipe and it is definitely worth taking all the effort.

Well, most of us know that there has been a deluge of an award tag in the food blog world and some of my blogger buddies were kind and thoughtful enough to send few of the titles in my way. It is a nice feeling when you get recognition and appreciation from the fellow bloggers and I sincerely thank Cynthia, Sunita, Mallugirl, Sandeepa, Archana, Sia, Pravs and Mathew for this nice gesture. I also thank all my fellow bloggers and readers for encouraging and supporting me and helping me maintain the same energy in all my posts. It would not have been possible with your appreciation and encouraging words. And for all those ghost readers out there, “Thank You” for coming back to my site and trying out the recipes :)

I assume most of the food bloggers have been awarded with these titles, let me pass this to two of my favourite bloggers who really makes me think, trough their posts.
  • Mathew of Spark, a born satirist makes everyone laugh and think at the same time, with his brilliant sense of humor. His humorous take on everyday life situations is absolutely impressive. Some of his touching and insightful posts, revealing certain simple universal truths, make the reader probe into his/her own responsibilities.
  • Nanditha of Miles to go before I sleep, a talented dancer and truth seeker dresses up her each and every posts with stories and incidents which has a spiritual aspect and in-depth meaning, making the reader think how the simple pleasures of life are to be enjoyed and stresses the importance of living in the moment.
Nanditha & Mathew, I truly enjoy your posts and looking forward to many in the future :)

UPDATE: Based on some of the responses I received, let me make a small note here. Kirsch OR Kirschwasser is generally available in liquor stores and might be hard to find in supermarkets here in US; take the help of a liquor store assistant and check for Kirschwasser, flavored brandy with natural cherry flavour. If Kirsch is not at all available, use rum or brandy in lesser quantity as they do not have a refined taste and smell like Kirsch. If the target group consists of children, you may consider avoiding them too. Instead of that make the syrup (1/4 cup water+ 1/4 cup sugar) and when it is cold, add 1/2 to 1 tsp vanilla extract (depending on the taste you want), just before assembling the cake.

As for the cherries, if fresh ones are not in season or unavailable, two options are there, 1) go for dried cherries which will be quite plump when soaked in the moistening syrup for 30 minutes. 2) Use the glace cherries , but don't go for the pie filling which will be extremely sweet and will spoil the taste of the cake. But you can never beat the taste of a Black Forest cake made using Kirsch and fresh cherries when you make so much of variations.

As for the Dutch Process Cocoa- powder, either stick to the brand I have given in the link or use a good quality product for the sole reason that if you use any not-so good products, it will spoil the cake. Dutch process cocoa- powders are light and mild and not bitter unlike the regular cocoa-powders. For instance, Hershey's dutch process cocoa- powder may not be suited for this recipe as it is too bitter.

Thank you !

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