A little sweet and a little savory...

Cracked Pepper and Parmesan Crackers1

Soo.. How was everyone's first weekend of 2011? Mine has been relaxing, peaceful, catching up with friends... that sort of thing. :) I think, indeed the perfect weekend for me!

I watched the movie, True Grit. I was pleasantly surprised by it, especially, since I was completely baffled by the Coen brothers' previous production, No Country For Old Men! Jeff Bridges rocks as usual and Matt Damon gives a dependable performance. But, the true star of the movie is Hailee Steinfeld, who delivers an impeccable performance as a determined and tad headstrong 14 year old!

On the note of Jeff Bridges, also watched Tron: Legacy. Bridges was good as usual but the movie felt two years too late in graphics and effects. After Avatar and Iron Man, I have just come to expect a lot more in the next generation movies... too much, you think?

Fruit Cake

New Year resolutions? I plan on eating and staying healthy, getting more exercise and eating more fruits and trying real hard to keep my metabolism from spiralling downward, now that I have crossed the psychological and physiological age mark! :)

On a related note, I think a PlayStation or Wii would be a good investment. NYE showed that these games are a whole lot of fun while making for a fantastic work out, not to mention, keeping the competitive spirit throbbing. It does help the confidence and enthusiasm when you are kicking ass!! :D

Places to eat: Spice Market. Funky ambiance with really interesting lighting fixtures and even more interesting (read: backless, but in a nice way, not at all suggestive!) waitress's outfits. Food was good and of course my company made it all tick! :) It was a girls' night out and a total blast! :)

Cracked Pepper and Parmesan Crackers close

Now, coming to this blog, I wanted to start the year by bringing you a little bit of sweet along with a little bit of savory, an yin and yang for the palette. Start a leisurely evening by nibbling on these Parmesan and Cracked Pepper Shortbread and end the evening by indulging in a rich Fruit Cake with a White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting & Fresh Raspberries....

A good combination for the shortbread, which has a bite to it (from the Tellicheri peppercorns), is a borderline sweet Cherry Tomato and Cranberry Chutney that I made over the summer from the produce from the local farms. The light sweetness balances the pepper's spice in shortbread. The cookie itself is buttery and rich.. :)

The Fruit Cake I share here is a family recipe from one of my friends. This cake is typically made during Christmas but it is apt for any special occasion, such as the start of a new year! :) In Kerala and Tamil Nadu during Christmas, bakeries are filled with the tantalising aromas of caramel and rich dried fruits which go into the making of this deceptively decadent Fruit Cake, which also goes by the name of Plum Cake.

Fruit Cake slice

So, that's from me. What are your plans and goals for this year ?

Parmesan and Cracked Pepper Shortbread

1 cup flour
7 T butter, room temperature
2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
3/4 cup fresh grated parmesan (you can add more for added flavor)
1 tsp salt

Whisk together the butter, salt and pepper until well mixed. You can do this using a hand whisk. Slowly sift in the flour and continue mixing into the butter. Add parmesan and mix. Shape the dough in a flat disk and refrigerate for 30 minutes until just firm.

Roll out the dough to 1/3 inch thickness on a floured surface. Cut out 2 inch circles using a cookie cutter. Bake the shortbread at 350F for 10 minutes. Rotate the tray 180 degrees and bake for another 10 minutes until light golden in color.

Celebration Fruit Cake with White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting & Fresh Raspberries
{One 8 inch cake}

Fruit Cake
{Recipe courtesy: Mathew Family}

250 g all purpose flour
250 g sugar
250 g butter, room temperature
6 eggs, separated
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup of brandied dried fruits (recipe below)
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla paste
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 3 T liquid caramel

White Chocolate Mascarpone Frosting:

125 g mascarpone
125 g white chocolate
5 tsp whole milk
1/4 tsp nutmeg
5-6 Raspberries

Melt the white chocolate in the milk over a double boiler. Set aside to cool. Transfer to the fridge for an hour. Mix in the cooled chocolate to mascarpone to make a creamy mixture. Fold in the nutmeg. Set aside until the cake is ready.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, and beat to mix well. Mix in the vanilla paste Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the yolk mixture. Drizzle in the caramel and mix well and set aside.

Beat the whites to stiff peaks. Fold a third of the beaten whites to the flour mixture to loosen it. Add the rest of the whites and gently fold into the flour mixture. Stop as soon you don’t see any white streaks. Gently fold in the nuts and brandied fruits.

Transfer to a oiled and lined 8 inch spring form pan and bake at 350 F (180 C) for 45 minutes until the cake is set and passes the toothpick test. Cool on rack for 10 minutes in the pan. Release the cake from the pan and cool to room temperature.

When the cake is completely cooled, spread a thick layer of the white chocolate and mascarpone frosting over the top of the cake. Decorate with fresh raspberries.