Year of Grace Day 205. Emptying the pantry, part 2: rice flour and lemons

Here’s the challenge: a half packet of rice flour, Indian rice flour to be exact. What’s the fastest way to use it up? I’d bought it to make Philippine steamed rice cakes called puto. Note that the name on the packet is puttu podi, which to me sounds remarkably close to the Tagalog putong puti. I’ve never eaten this Indian rice flour-based steamed delicacy, but recipes for it read as if it would be a savoury version of the rice cakes steamed in bamboo tubes, called puto bumbong in Manila. And that is why I’d bought it a few months ago at the Indian food shop downtown. But steaming sounded like a very fiddly operation for one in the midst of packing and moving.

For some days now I’ve been hankering for a tart lemon cake. One with a crunchy crystalline drizzly top. Somewhat like that mainstay of British church or Women’s Institute cake sales — lemon drizzle cake — but made with rice flour. With a recipe for lemon polenta cake that had not worked for me before, I decided to experiment. I also had 3 and a half lemons, a bottle of lemon juice, and some desiccated coconut to use up. I must say the result was not bad at all. In fact it was remarkably close to what I’d had in mind.

Now if only I could think of something as easy to make to use up the banana and pandan leaves sitting in my freezer.

If you’d like to try it, here’s my recipe. Such a breeze to make. No need for a mixer.

Lemon-Coconut Rice Cake

This makes a moist tart-sweet cake. Our threshold for tartness is higher than most people’s, so I used ½ cup of lemon juice where the recipe below calls for 1/3 cup, altogether a cup of lemon juice for the cake. Quite puckery sour for most. The resulting texture is crumbly but moist, as you can see from the photo. Rather like moist lemony coconut macaroons. The original recipe called for almond flour and polenta, for which I substituted desiccated coconut and rice flour, respectively.

Prepare a tart pan or round cake pan (~25 cm /10 inches) for baking: butter it and dredge with 1 tablespoon flour, tapping the pan to cover it evenly. Preheat oven to 175 C /325 F.

In a large bowl, mix well:
250g (~ 1 cup packed) rice flour
125g (~ ½ cup) desiccated coconut
¼ teaspoon salt
180g (~2/3 cup) sugar
grated zest and juice of 3 lemons (there should be ~1/3 cup juice)

Let this mixture stand for about 30 – 45 minutes for the coconut to become hydrated.

Melt and cool, then mix thoroughly into the flour-coconut-lemon mixture:
½ cup / 125g butter

Mix in:
3 large eggs, well beaten
Stir in thoroughly (this may not be necessary, but the two times I made the original recipe with polenta and almond flour which did not call for leavening, the results were stodgy):
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

Transfer mixture to the prepared pan and bake in the middle shelf of the oven for 30 minutes or until done. The cake should be golden and just turning brown at the edges. A toothpick inserted in the middle should come out dry.

Take out the cake from the oven.
Prepare the lemon drizzle.

In a small bowl, mix thoroughly:
1/3 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
2/3 – ¾ cup confectioners’ (powdered) sugar (use the larger amount if you have a sweet tooth)
1/4 cup granulated (regular) sugar

You may wish to add a couple of tablespoons of orange liqueur to the drizzle.
Poke holes all over the still-warm cake, and brush or pour the drizzle all over.
Allow to cool thoroughly before eating.

Let me know how it turned out for you.

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