Monday, April 30, 2007

Lemony tea loaf with dry fruits, berries and sliced almonds

Yeah, I suppose I could have used my loaf to come up with a catchier title for this really rather yummy cake-bread. ("Used my loaf" - get it? This is where y'all chuckle, smile, roll your eyes, make a face, groan, whatever. Any of those or all of them, in any order preferred. Just acknowledge the stomach-churning brilliance of the pun!)

But I didnt come up with a snappier title, and neither loaf helped the process in the least - one sat there looking inscrutable (YOU try anthropomorphising or analysing baked goods!) and the other sat there lacking brain cells. End result: to describe this cake to anyone, you'll need a very deep breath to recite "Lemony tea loaf with dry fruits, berries and sliced almonds?" all at one go.

Right. Now that's clear.

This is an eggfree recipe from - yes, you guessed it! - Cintia Stammers' book . I'm afraid I took the basic recipe and ran with it somewhat, because after the
last eggfree baking disaster, I wasnt about to keep the recipe as simple as the book would have it.

So I added some vanilla extract and a large handful of mixed dry fruits, berries and sliced almonds - and, because I had a little bit of Sprite (I was drinking it because the evening was so VERY hot) left over in the can, and because it would have overfilled my glass, I added that as well to the batter, as an afterthought. No point wasting stuff, is there?

In retrospect, perhaps I should not have added the 3 tbsp-odd of Sprite. Not in addition to the baking powder and soda, anyway.

Bet you thought this was the prelude to yet another but entertainingly different baking experience from which I come out with egg all over my face. Right? Hah. You were wrong! WRONG! The yolk, my friends, is on you! This time, I couldnt have come out with egg on my face because - wait for it - I didnt use eggs in this recipe. Devilishly devious, that's me.

So, anybody still hanging around in the hope of reading about the loaf-cake? Your patience is going to be rewarded now.

The reason I've come to the conclusion that adding the Sprite was not the best idea is because the loaf crust came over all crisp and crumbly. Like bread. Which is good for bread, but I was going for a more cakey texture in loaf shape. My mother suggested that perhaps there was too much soda - hence I decided that the Sprite was the culprite. I mean culprit.

The cake tasted very nice and sweetly lemony, with the occasional bite of sliced almond and chewy dried fruits. The only way it failed my expectation was, as mentioned, in the crust area, which made it difficut to make neat slices.

Oh, the batter made one 750gm loaf and three bitty little loaves, which I didnt weigh.

But if you want to make this loaf-cake and you possess a 2-pound loaf pan, that's what you should use. The recipe said so.

Recipe for:
Lemony tea loaf with dry fruits, berries and sliced almonds


1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 tbsp butter or margarine
3/4 to 1 cup caster sugar (depending on your sweet tolerance - I used 3/4)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup mixed dry fruits and sliced or chopped nuts
3/4 cup milk
Juice of 1-1/2 lemons
1-1/2 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp soda bicarb
1 htsp baking powder


1. First, put the milk in a small bowl, add the lemon juice and let the milk curdle.

Preheat the oven to 180C and lightly grease a 2-pound loaf pan.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the butter and sugar till it is fluffy and light. Add the lemon zest and mix in

then add the dry fruits and nuts.

3. In another bowl, sift together the flour, soda bicarb and baking soda.

4. Add the curdled milk and the sifted flour by turns to the butter mixture, beating well between additions. Continue till the milk and flour are used up. The batter will be quite thick.

5. Mix in the vanilla extract and transfer the batter to the prepared loaf pan.

6. Bake the loaf for about 45 minutes or till a tester inserted in the centre comes out clean.

7. Remove the loaf pan from the oven but let the cake remain in the pan for 10 minutes. Then gently remove it from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

Tip: Drizzle or pour lemon icing thinly over the top of the loaf for an even lemonier flavour. (I wish I'd remembered to do this before I cut the cake-loaf!)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Vellai appam

If you have any leftover dosa batter, vellai appam are a fun food to make and even more fun to eat. Only works, of course, if you have the vellai appam chatti. I am the proud possessor of such a chatti, thanks to my mother.

Usually these appliances are of cast-iron, seasoned lovingly over a long time with regular use. Unfortunately I dont have the patience or the time, so this non-stick, modern version of the chatti was the perfect gift for me. The bottom is solid cast iron, but the top surface is non-stick. And because it's non-stick, you only need to add a drop or two of oil to the little depressions to turn out perfect pillowy soft appams. The traditional way is to literally deep fry the appams in their little depressions which are filled with a lot of oil... very yummy but not so good for the tummy.

The only drawback is that there's no quick way of making this for more than one person at a time - only 7 little depressions, alas. And even for that one person (me) it's a dreary job waiting for the little guys to get golden and crispy outside and soft and fluffy inside...

Dreary job, did I say? More like a never-ending wait! You have to wait for the batter to start turning opaque around the edges as it cooks, wait for the opacity to spread towards the centre and only THEN turn it over for the other side to cook... and that means another wait. It's just a few minutes, really, but it feels like eternity. And yeah, the wait is worth it.

Appams are best had with tomato thokku or coconut chutney, I guess. But I have them hot off the pan, without any accompaniments, even if it means a somewhat burnt tongue. Vellai appam... yum.

Another variation on vellai appam is to make it using wheat flour. Just as tasty, in a slightly different way!

Recipe for:
Vellai appam


1 cup dosa batter
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp oil (+ more to baste)
2 green chillies, sliced very thin
1 pinch of asafoetida
a few fresh curry leaves, torn into small pieces


1. Heat 1 tsp oil in a small pan. Splutter the mustard seeds in the oil (cover the pan), then add the green chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida and fry for about 30 seconds.

2. Pour the tempering over the dosa batter and mix thoroughly.

3. Heat the appam chatti on a medium-high flame and dribble a couple of drops of oil in each depression.

4. Now drop the dosa batter by the teaspoon into each depression, filling it 3/4 of the way to the top.

5. Let the appams cook over medium heat, until the batter starts solidifying around the edges, turning opaque.

6. When only the middle part of the appams is still liquidy, carefully turn over each appam with a thin skewer (or use a spoon if you can).

7. Let the appams cook for another minute or so, till they are cooked and golden-crisp on the top and bottom.

8. Serve hot, with a side dish of coconut chutney if desired.

These appams are tasty even when cold but they will lose their fluffy fresh cooked aspect.

Photos of the apricot disaster

It's been so long (or it FEELS so long) since my last post where I asked if anybody wanted to see pics of my apricot disaster, that I bet everyone's forgotten about it. Well, I cant have THAT happen, can I? So here they are... the only thing I can say is that the photos dont look as bad as reality did! :) Better yet, there's no way of tasting/smelling the cake. Whoopee! When they invent a way to share not just photos and recipes, but smells and tastes as well, that will be the day I close down this blog - assuming I dont abandon it sooner, that is (jes' kidding *wink*).

Step 1 to disaster: Chopped apricots sprinkled on top of glue batter

Step 2 to disaster: Cinnamon-flour-sugar mix sprinkled on top of chopped apricots sprinkled on top of glue batter

Step 3 to disaster: Baked cake with the cooked glue lurking underneath

Final step to disaster: TaDAAAAAH - glue cake in all its gummy glory!