Vattayappam – Soft And Spongy Yeasted Steam Cakes

Vattayappm - the soft and spongy sweet Rice Cake From Kerala
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Vattayappam or Vattappam or Vatteppam is a steamed rice cake from Kerala.  It is a pristine white, spongy cake  made with fermented rice batter. Usually these are sweetened with  sugar and  lightly flavored with cardamom.
Vattayappm - the soft and spongy sweet Rice Cake From KeralaThis  simple  unassuming  looking  cake  just  melts  in the mouth.  It is  filled  with  millions of small air pockets. All right,  I admit ,  I haven’t  counted  them. But  you take a  look at  the   cross  section and  it  seems  quite plausible.  All this  magic  happens   with no gluten  strands to provide support  structure!

You read right – this is a gluten free recipe.  There are just 5 required ingredients here rice, coconut, sugar, leavening and water.  Any flavoring and spices used are optional. So I guess  I have   rephrase  that –  it is  gluten  free  and  vegan  recipe.

In Kerala Vattayappam  is a popular evening snack. The batter is pretty much the same as the one used to make palappam. Often times when palappam is made for breakfast the leftover batter becomes the starter for Vattayappam.  The leftover batter is  re-purposed by adding  extra  flour/sugar  as needed  and left to  ferment for a  few  hours.  These are  made  into  Vattayappam  just  in time  for  evening  snack!.

Vattayappm - the soft and spongy sweet Rice Cake From Kerala

See  the  millions  of  air pockets  that  I  was  talking   about 🙂 .  This one  is    taller   than   usual –  about  2  inches.

Appam in South India

In the south Appam is used to refer to a variety of cakes – steamed, deep fried, shallow fried and even wrapped in banana leaves and baked. They come in all shapes and sizes – Kallappam is a breakfast pancake, neiappam is fried sweet, kumbil appam is steamed  and wrapped in banana or  large bay,  so on.

In any case if someone is serving you appam you are in for a treat.

Rice

The flour used in this steam cake is rice flour. The quality of rice flour is very important, do not use sticky rice flours. Less starchy flours work better here.  Usually Indian grocery stores carry rice flour for making Vattayappam or use the raw rice flour available there.

Another option is to soak rice and grind. The typical Indian  varieties  of  rice  like ponni rice, idli rice, sona masoori, jeera or even basmati will work well in  this recipe.  When  making  this  substitution use 1 3/4 C rice for 2 C rice flour.

Since rice flour is gluten free cooked starch is used to provide the structural support required to keep the steamed cake from going flat for cooking. Typically it is  a little broken  rice , or  flour  that is  cooked  until it  is  thickened (similar  to tang zhong) . Leftover  cooked  rice   is a  good  substitute as  well.

Coconut

Coconut is a must have ingredient here. The recipe below uses coconut paste. The grated  coconut is  ground and  added  to the  batter.  This  improves  the taste as well as the texture of  the  cake.  When grated coconut is not available you can make it with only coconut milk. In that case increase the cooked starches a little.

Yeast

Vattayappam is a leavened cake.  Yeast is used to leaven and the slow fermentation taking 6 to 8 hours adds to the taste.  If  you are allergic to  yeast  substitute 1 tbsp of baking powder in the recipe to make an instant version.  I do not  recommend  doing  this unless  you have to  as  the  yeast  version  is  much better  in  terms  of  flavor.

Sugar

Sugar is the sweetener and the food for yeast in this recipe. ¾ C is my limit for 2 C of flour. It makes a  sweet Vattayappam without  making  it overpoweringly sweet. Too much  sugar hides the flavors created by fermentation. For a very mild sweet appam use ½ C.

You could also serve this as a steamed bread with a spicy curry for dinner as well. In that case keep the sugar even lower, about 2 to 4 tbsp for 2 C of rice flour. Even if it is meant as a savory side a little sugar is needed to feed the yeast.


Try these curries  with  vattayappam


Vattayappm - the soft and spongy sweet Rice Cake From Kerala

This  is  a  thinner  one – about  1 inch  tall  and just  what  tea  time  called  for !

Water

The amount of water used, how thick or thin the batter is, influences the texture of the appam.  The batter should be thick, and a bit viscous like pancake batter or idli batter. If it turns out be a very thin batter the steamed cake will not be spongy very dense.

Spices

I love the  vattayappam for its classic simplicity. Plain  white, with no distractions taking the attention away from it texture and taste.  So  I do not  like  to  use  too much  spices or  flavors   save a   touch of cardamom powder.

The sponginess of this steam cake is lost with extra additions.  The nuts and raisins weigh down on the batter interfering with vattayappam’s ability to rise.  If  you   must  add  these  add  them   to the  steam  cake  halfway   through the   steaming  process.   This  way  you can   ensure that  not  all of them   sink to the  bottom of  the  cake.

Steaming

There are  many  ways  to  steam this  cake.

  • Use a   steamer  rack .
  • Idli steamer – If you are   south  Indian   chances  are you have  idli  steamer.  It is  ideal for this  recipe.
  • Pressure  cooker  –   Fill the  pressure  cooker   with about  1 inch water.  Set a  raised  platform (steamer  rack,  steel  or other  heatproof   bowls) in the  water.  The  cake pan is to be  set  on top of  the   raised  platform.  Make sure  that  this  set up  keeps  the pan  at  least  1  cm  above  the  water.   Do  not  seal the  steam  vent.
  • Instant Pot –  use  at  least  the minimum    amount  of  water  recommended  for  your  version of  IP  and  use  the   steamer  rack.

Steps  to making  vattayappam

Making Vattayappam

1 – 2.  Make  the  cooked  starch or  thari katchiyathu.
3.  Grind  coconut  with  a  little  sugar.
4. Activate  yeast.
5 – 7. Mix  all the  above  ingredients  with rice flour  and a pich  of  salt.  Add  enough  water  to make  thick batter.
8. Ferment  batter.
9 – 10  Mix  in  extra  sugar  and  cardamom.
11 – 12   Pour into  pans   and rest  for  20 minutes.
(Below) Steam .

Vattayappm - the soft and spongy sweet Rice Cake From Kerala

How  to  know  when the vattayappam is  cooked through ?

Usually 20 minutes of steaming is all that is needed to cook vattayappam. When cooked the cake will begin to pull away every so lightly from the sides of the pan as in the picture. Another way to check is to stick a tooth pick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean the cake is done cooking.

Some  common  tips  ,  tricks  and  troubleshooting

  • If the batter is too runny, mix in a little more flour and let it rest for about 30 minutes or  until the batter has visibly bulked up.
  • If you must add dried fruits or nuts, it is better to add them halfway through steaming. This will prevent the nuts and raisins from sinking to the bottom.
  • Do not fill the pan more than half way through, in other words allow  enough room  for  the  steam  cake  to  expand.
  • Steam should be allowed to escape from the steamer.  If using a pressure cooker /instant pot for steaming make sure that the steam vents are open.
  • When opening the steamer  ensure  that   no water   condensed on the lid  falls  on vattayappam.
  • Highly starchy rice flour makes sticky vattayappam.  Once in the steamer nothing can be done to salvage these. But any leftover batter can be saved by adding equal amount of flour and fermenting. These can be cooked on the griddle just like pancakes.
  • If the batter is over fermented – risen and fallen back – the appams will not rise well upon steaming. Mix in more flour to the batter and let it rest until it has visibly bulked up before making appams.
  • If the batter is rapidly rising (very warm environment) you can slow it down by transferring the container to the fridge.
  • If the room temperature is cold the batter may take too long to rise. In that case place it in a warm environment – warmed oven, ice box with a hot back, under a warm light.  Do not heat the batter directly.

The  recipe  for  vattayappam is  given below. it  is tailored for the modern kitchens.  If you want to make it in the  traditional way refer to the notes are given below the recipe.

Vattayappam

Vattayappm is a  soft  and  spongy rice cake. It  is  made  with  a fermented rice  batter.   Coconut , sugar  and  cardamom are  the other  ingredients  that  give  it its  classic  taste  and  aroma.   

Course: Snack
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Syama
Ingredients
  • 2 C Fine Raw Rice Powder  Notes 1
  • 1 Tbsp Broken Rice/ Flour  Notes 2
  • 1 C Grated Coconut Lightly Packed
  • ½ Tsp Active Dry Yeast
  • 1/4 Tsp  Cardamom Seeds 2-3 pods
  • 2½ - 3  C Water Use as needed
  • 1/8 Tsp Salt
  • ¾ C Sugar
Instructions
Make the cooked starch (Thari Kachiyathu)
  1. Take ½ C water in a pan and bring to boil. Add the broken rice or semolina to it cook for 1 minute stirring often. The water is absorbed into the solids and a thick mix is formed. Turn off the heat and let it cool until warm to touch.

Make batter
  1. Warm the remaining water to about 100 °F or just warm to touch. Take 1/4 C water in a bowl and stir in 1 tbsp of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top and set aside to bloom for 5 to 10 minutes. 

  2. In a blender grind the grated coconut and 2 Tbsp sugar to a fairly smooth paste. If needed add a little water to facilitate grinding.

  3.  Mix the rice flour, the cooled starch, salt, activated yeast solution and the ground paste in a large bowl. Add enough of the remaining water to this mix to make a very thick batter. Cover the bowl and set aside to ferment in a warm place for 6 to 8 hours.

Steam
  1.  The batter has fermented enough when it almost doubled in size, and you notice yeast activity on top. Crush the cardamom seeds to a fine powder. Sprinkle the cardamom powder and the remaining sugar on top of the batter. Mix well.

  2.  Grease the bottom and sides of a steamer pan - similar to an 8- or 9-inch circular cake tin. Pour the mix into a steamer pan and set aside for 15 to 20 minutes.

  3.  Meanwhile, bring water to boil in the steamer. When the water boils set the prepared pan in the steamer. The bottom of the pan should not touch the water. Cover and steam for 20 minutes over medium heat.

  4.   The vattayappam is ready when it begins to slightly pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from the steamer, cool to room temperature slice and serve.

Recipe Notes
  • If   making  fresh  ground  rice batter   use  1 3/4 C  rice  as equivalent  to  2 C  rice  flour. 
  • Semolina  is  often  used   to make  the  thari kachiyathu (the cooked  starch).  Keep in mind  that  semolina  is  a  wheat product. For a  gluten free  version  use   rice or  even  left over  cooked  rice. 
  •  Other  spices  that  are  used  to flavor vattayappam are   fennel  and cumin.  Try to  stick to one  spice   at a  time .  This  cake  when made  properly is  very   delicate  and  the  spices  tend  to  overpower. 
  • When  grated  coconut  is  not  available, use  canned  or  powdered  coconut  milk.   Use   1  and  half  to  2  times  the  cooked  starch as in the  recipe.

The traditional  way 

Traditionally this   cake  was  made  with freshly  ground  batter.  For  this  rice has   to be  soaked in  water  for  3 to 4   hours.   Drain  and  grind  to  fine  paste  with  just  enough  water. 

1  to 2  tablespoons  of  this  paste  is  cooked  to make the  cooked  starch  portion of  the  batter.  

From  here on the   rice paste  and   cooked  starch can  be  used  as  int eh  recipe.   The only difference  is  that  less  amount  of  water  is  needed  to  make  the  batter. 

If you try this recipe, I would  love  to hear  about it ! Leave a COMMENT, RATING , share a photo and TAG me on INSTAGRAM, FACEBOOK  OR  GOOGLE+  

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Vattayappm - the soft and spongy sweet Rice Cake From Kerala

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