The macaron-phobe has finally become a macaron-pro. I know, modesty isn’t one of my strongest suits, but hey, this is a moment I’m really proud of. The amazing thing with confidence is that it allows you to experiment, break a few rules. And I want to share the fruits of my success with you.
Tag Archives: stiff peaks
I love second hand bookshops. For me, the idea of wandering my way through a flurry of books that at some point belonged to someone but later put away as unnecessary because they’ve lost their pertinence is very exhilarating. In a weird way they have character, having gone through a cycle of life from one place to another and then to another.
The pages, a murky white stained with rusty brown spots, it’s almost as though they’ve been given a wash of sepia. As you flip one page after the other, the perfume that comes through is so distinctly consistent. And then you find a little pencil scribble on a random page, perhaps a name or a doodle of a little flower and at that point it’s hard not to think why the book was given away, just like that.
I am nervous before I attempt any Raymond Blanc’s recipe. I don’t dote on celebrities or people much, but he is an exception. His recipes are precious and somewhere I feel like if I fail them, I’ll let him down.
On a usual day of baking, I am fairly well prepared. On a day when I am attempting one of Raymond’s recipes I am shockingly meticulous. I stick the recipe on a wall in front of me. I measure the ingredients and lay them out in bowls. I read the recipe 10 times, at least, after watching the video 4-5 times.
In all the times I’ve tried one of Raymond’s recipes, this time was extra special, extra important, this time I endeavoured one of his gorgeous chocolate cakes, Gâteau de Macaron, for Pavan’s birthday.
Warning alert: This dessert is jaw-achingly sweet even for a sugar hound like me. If you forbid desserts that are beyond the normally accepted levels of sweetness, this one is not for you. But do stay on, I might just lure you into becoming a convert through an eloquent description of this snow-white meringue dessert, of whipped cream and fresh fruits ; and so I begin….
Some say that Pavlova originated in New Zealand, while some believe that it was first created in Australia. However, like with the case of many desserts, the origin of Pavlova will continue to be a subject of bewilderment. What we do know for sure is that it was created in honour of a Russian ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. She must have been an immaculate dancer, to have a dessert named after her..
From its traditional ensemble of meringue topped with strawberries, kiwi fruit and whipped cream, a Pavlova has manifested itself into many avatars. This one for instance, has travelled all the way from the land of Kiwifruit and Kakapos to the Mediterranean, of pomegranates, pistachios and rose petals generously strewn over ripples of whipped cream and meringue clouds.
The egg whites are whipped to a stiff peak along with caster sugar. They are then slowly baked in a mildly hot oven. Essentially, the meringues have to be crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside, like marshmallows. If you don’t much care for pomegranates, use fruits that are not overly sweet.
For the meringues
- 3 egg whites
- 175 g caster sugar (bring it down to 150 g if you want to cut the sweetness)
- 1/4 tsp lemon juice
For the filling
- 150 ml whipping cream
- 1 tbsp rose water
- 2 tbsp strawberry jam
- Handful of pomegranate seeds
- Handful of pistachios
- Icing sugar, to dust
- Rose petals, to decorate
- Spray a baking sheet with oil and line it with parchment paper. Draw a 20 cm/8 inch circle on the parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 160 C.
- In a clean, stainless steel bowl, using an electric beater, whip the egg whites (at room temperature) to a frothy consistency (30 seconds). Add the lemon juice and continue to whip the egg whites, adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until they form stiff peaks (5 minutes).
- Now, using a rubber spatula, spoon the meringue over the prepared baking sheet. Use the circle drawn as a guide the spread the meringue. Keep the centre slightly hollow. Using the back of a spoon or an offset spatula, create ripples on the sides.
- Reduce the oven temperature to 140 C. Bake the meringue for 1 hour. After the meringue has been baked, allow it to cool in the oven with the oven door slightly ajar.
- Meanwhile, whip the cream to soft peaks. Add rose water and the strawberry jam. Whip again.
- After the meringue has been completely cooled, spoon the prepared whipped cream in the center. Sprinkle pomegranate seeds and pistachios. Dust icing sugar and decorate with rose petals.
I’ve had flourless chocolate cakes before, but nothing quite light (lighter than air) as this; needless to say, it’s Raymond Blanc‘s recipe. Raymond Blanc: How to Cook Well is Raymond’s brand new show that aired on BBC TWO a while ago. The show demystifies the basics of cooking – Slow Cooking, Poaching, Roasting, Baking, Frying and BBQ & Grill. Raymond teaches you how simple techniques can do wonders to your everyday cooking and there’s nothing more encouraging than hearing a legendary chef tell you that you don’t need high flying kitchens to cook something breathtaking. The flourless cake has to be billowy, otherwise it’s not a flourless cake. The egg whites are whipped into stiff peaks, puffy and white as clouds. The cocoa powder is dusted into the whipped whites through a sieve and the sight of the cocoa disappearing into the snow-like egg whites is something else.
You know what’s glorious about this cake? It’s not just any flourless cake, it’s a flourless cake with Raymond’s spin and that my dear friends has to be quintessentially French, doesn’t it? A delicious chocolate mousse is poured over the baked cake and is set in the fridge for at least a couple of hours.
And then comes the element that makes this simple cake a showstopping, celebratory one – chocolate tuilles, that sit slenderly atop the cake.
In school, I would always splash blue ink on a sheet of paper and fold the paper in half. When I opened the paper, the ink would’ve travelled to the other side, creating beautiful blue butterfly-like abstract shapes. A similar technique is used to make the chocolate tuile, blue ink is a concoction of chocolate and paper is parchment paper of course.
Now, I need a reward for doing 100 surya namaskars yesterday, so I’m going to cut myself a sliver. And all you folks with gluten allergy, go nuts!
For flourless chocolate cake
- 4 eggs, separated
- 125 g (1/2 cup + 2tbsp) caster sugar
- 35 g (2 tbsp + 1 tsp)cocoa powder, sifted
For chocolate mousse
- 5 eggs, whites only
- 165 g dark chocolate, chopped (70% cocoa solids)
- 25 g caster sugar
For chocolate tuile
- 150 g caster sugar
- 50 g pure chocolate, chopped
- 1 tsp cocoa powder
- 50 g butter
- 40 g liquid glucose (usually available in pharmacies)
Note: The original recipe calls for using two 7 inch ring moulds to prepare to portions of cakes. I used one 8″ ring mould to make one portion of cake instead.
- Preheat oven to 170 C. You will need a 8 ” ring mould to bake this cake. Wrap the sides and base of the ring with aluminium foil. Now, line the base and sides of the ring with parchment paper again. Butter the base and sides of the parchment. Set aside.
- Whip the egg whites until frothy (2 minutes). Gradually add the sugar and whip the (4-5 minutes). Add the egg yolks to the egg whites and whisk until combined. Now fold well. Dust the cocoa powder into the egg mixture through a sieve. Fold gingerly, just until the ingredients are combined. Pour into the ring mould. Bake for 15 minutes until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Allow the cake to cool for an hour.
- Melt the chopped chocolate over a saucepan of simmering water. The base of the chocolate dish should not touch the water.
- Whip the egg whites to a frothy texture. Add the sugar. Whip to stiff peaks.
- Fold 1/3rd of the egg whites to the melted chocolate. Fold just until combined. Fold the remaining chocolate. Fold well.
- Cut the top crust of the cooled cake. Place it back into the ring. Pour the prepared mousse on top. Refrigerate the cake for at least 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 170 C.
- Combine 80 ml water, sugar and cocoa powder in a saucepan. Place saucepan in low heat and wait until the sugar dissolves. Add the butter, chopped chocolate and glucose. Bring it to boil (10 -20 seconds). Allow to cool.
- Pour the tuile mixture on a parchment paper. Fold the parchment paper in half and roll the paper using a rolling pin so that the mixture spreads. Tear the parchment paper in halves, place them on a baking sheet and bake the tuile for 5 minutes.
- Allow the tuile to cool and they will harden.
- Once the cake is set, splash some melted chocolate over it to create an abstract design. Pierce the tuiles into the cake, so they stand, without damaging the cake.
Here is a link to Raymond making the cake http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=msreouoGP7A
Link to the original recipe: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/flourless_chocolate_cake_73668
Suddenly, from having tons of time to while away, I have become that person who says, ‘oh no, 24 hours in a day is not enough!.’ I have enrolled myself into a baking course at Sophia to transform my pet project into something bigger, something inspiring. My day starts at 6 in the morning (I try very hard to wake up that early…very hard), as I literally fall off trying to do more than 50 Surya Namaskars at yoga class. I go back home with my arms and legs wailing in pain. With cakes and pastries being made every other day in my kitchen, I figured some form of exercise is much needed. Pavan being the sweetheart he is has breakfast ready for me. He says he wants to be my nutritionist and so he’s been hired!
If you knew me even slightly well, you know how much of an ambler I am. In a busy commute like railway stations, Bombay dwellers really don’t have the time and patience to wait for people like me and rightfully so. So I get pushed and prodded, until I get angry and pick up my pace. Wary of my belongings (theft risk) and watchful over who is around me, I march my way to the spot where the first class ladies coupe arrives. I hop on to the train, find myself a spot and switch off. Halfway through, I unwrap my parathas and eat them. I love it. I love how these trains carry more than half of Bombay and get them to their destinations in no time. I love how punctual they are and more importantly I love being amongst co-passengers, who are in their own spaces, doing their own things, just like me. But that’s also because I have been lucky so far (touch wood). I’ve also heard horror stories from friends about travelling by trains, hopefully I won’t be subject to them.
I am on my feet for at least 2 hours in class, whisking away (electric mixers are condemned), taking turns with my partner, if the work is labourious. We finish our assigned dishes for the day, divide it among respective partners and bring it back home. I get to meet people like me, with a penchant for baking and similar aspirations, which is great! I come back home wanting to put my feet up and watch some TV. The next couple of hours are strictly no kitchen hours.
This has been my story and it probably explains why I haven’t been as regular with my posts as I used to be. To make up for the longish absence, I have a great recipe for you. Ice creams always pose a threat in our kitchens and many of us don’t make them for the lack of appropriate equipment. This one needs no ice cream maker and believe me when I say it is as creamy and as decadent as the one you might get from an ice cream maker. An aftermath of masterchef fever, I tried to plate up my ice cream. I smeared some salted caramel sauce on the plate, placed a little puff pastry circle over it and whacked a quenelle of my no-churn rum and raisin ice cream on top. I don’t know how successful I was but I think it looks pretty amazing!
- 2 eggs, separated
- 50 g caster sugar
- 150 ml double cream
- 50 g raisins soaked in dark rum (2-3 hours)
- Whip your egg whites till it gets frothy. Gradually add the caster sugar and whip them to glossy, stiff peaks. Set aside.
- Beat your egg yolks. Incorporate the rum and raisins. Set aside. Beat the cream into soft peaks. It helps if your bowl and whisks are refrigerated before you whisk the cream.
- Add the egg yolks mixture to whipped cream. Add the cream to the egg whites gradually.
- Transfer mixture to a box and throw it in the freezer for 4 hours before serving.
Adapted from Marry Berry’s No-churn Ice Cream
Have the monsoons in Bombay begun? The mornings have been mildly sunny and the rain pours out of a beautiful, blue-grey sky in the afternoons. The last few days have been pleasant here – lush vegetables everywhere, man cycling on the road with a plastic cover plunged over his head, reflection of a bright umbrella on a pool of muddy water and if these are not signs of summer coming to an end, then the pretty fruits of cherries, peaches and lychees strewn about everywhere is definitely one. Not that I am an expert when it comes to seasonal fruits but I here such fruits are found in abundance in the markets when the monsoon begins.
So I bought a dozen of peaches, not because I had a recipe conceived in mind but they were irresistible. Suede like skin and in all that peachness, there is a clustering of a mild red somewhere, just like a bruise. I mean, that’s the kind of shade you sometimes wish your cheeks naturally bore. You don’t even feel like eating them because they look the way they do. And there they were, sitting pretty in my fridge for three days until Pavan asked me ‘hey what are those peaches doing in the fridge?’ I still didn’t have a plan, though I knew I wanted to do something with them. So I said to him, ‘Don’t touch them. I’m saving them for baking.’ He wasn’t very thrilled. I keep doing that with almost every exotic fruit we buy.
Finally, I had an epiphany. I didn’t want all that flavour of the fruit getting lost in flour. I wanted something light and I also wanted to showcase the fruit in its entirety. And the idea of a spiced cake and peaches somehow struck a chord. So I thought of caramelizing the peaches, making a peach mousse and a cardamom cake. I didn’t want it to be a single slab of cake carrying all these elements of peaches; I wanted something elegant, something that looks lovely on a plate by itself. So I decided to bake the cake and cut it into circles using a mould. Yes, yes, sure as hell sounds complicated but it’s not.
Now the tricky thing about making a mousse is that when you are separating the eggs, you can’t afford to drop even a spec of yolk into the whites. Most pâtissiers will tell you how the whites hate the yellows and this is when my first peek into the Bombay monsoons happened. As I was breaking the eggs to separate them, a teeny tiny bit of yolk ran into the whites. So I thought, that’s okay, it’s only a little bit. But the whites refused to stiffen up (which is essential for a mousse to set in the refrigerator) and I had no eggs left. So as I ran down to pick up some eggs, the rain god decides to shower upon me. I ran anyway to buy the eggs and on my way back I dropped them. I ran again to buy them, by now drenched. If you are reading this and you know me really well, you won’t be surprised at all. I drop things. Certainly not a skill a baker must have 🙂
All said and done, this recipe is well worth all that trouble I went through. You should try it too 🙂
For the cardamom cake
- 120 g self raising flour, sifted
- 10 cardamoms
- 3 cloves
- Pinch of ground cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg, grated
- Pinch of salt
- 120 g caster sugar
- 120 g butter, unsalted
- 2 eggs, separated
For the peach mousse
- 3 ripe peaches
- 2 eggs, whites only
- 30 g caster sugar
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar, optional
For the caramelized peaches
- 1 peach
- 1 tbsp caster sugar
Makes 4 individual cakes
- Preheat your oven to 180 C. Line a square cake tin with parchment paper. You will need four 3 inch circular ring moulds. Line them with parchment paper too. Spray some nonstick cooking spray inside of the ring and stick the parchment paper as show below.
- For the cake, grind the cardamom (skinned) and the cloves together. I prefer using a mortar and pestle but you can use a blender. Sift the flour, add the ground spices, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mix well and set aside.
- Blend the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg yolks one at a time and blend further. Add the flour mixture to this, blend well and set aside.
- Whip the egg whites until they are stiff. Add them to the batter. Fold well, scrapping the bottom of the bowl. Do not over fold your batter.
- Pour the batter into a cake pan and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes.
- Allow the cake to cool for 10 minutes. Using the prepared circular mold, cut 4 peices out of the cake. Save the remaining pieces for later, to have with tea 🙂
- Now, when you cut out circles from the cake make sure the circles are still in the mold. They form the base of your dish.
- For the mousse, blanch your peaches in a sauce pan of simmering water for 3 minutes. Plunge them into a bowl of ice to bring them back to room temperature. Peal the skin and puree the peaches. Set aside.
- To both the egg whites, add the cream of tartar powder. Whip until frothy (use an electric whisker). Now, add the sugar. Whip at full speed until you get stiff peaks. (see my mango upside down cake recipe to see what stiff peaks look like).
- Add 1/3rd of the egg whites to the peach puree. Fold well. Add the remainder and continue to fold. Do not over fold.
- For the caramelized peaches, slice the peach into lengthy pieces. Place them on a slightly simmering pan. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the peaches. Allow the peaches to caramelize as the sugar melts by itself. This should take about 2-3 minutes.
- Now to assemble the cake, pipe the mousse into the mold, over the cardamom cake. You can also spoon the mousse if you want to. Place 4-5 slices of peaches on the mousse. Repeat for all the cakes.
- Refrigerate for 3-4 hours before eating.