June and July are 'back-to-school' months, here in India. The school buses get ready to hit the roads, mothers grateful to get their peace of mind back and the kids get set to immerse themselves in a mundane routine that in a decade or two, they will look back at as straightforward and uncomplicated.
It is that time of the year when little minds have to make BIG decisions like choosing the appropriate school bag, stationary, lunch box and other such accoutrements. The underlying principle guiding these decision ... "Neighbour's Envy, Owner's Pride"!! For some reason, I remember the pencil box, that little box that stored all your stationary essentials, playing a big role in cementing your 'cool quotient' amongst your peers during the wonder years!! Do you have any special 'back-to-school' memory??
So, in the spirit of things, I share this dessert, Chocolate Blancmange, which was a regular for me and my sister through our school years. I found it while rummaging through my mother's recipe box. She has this green-checked tin box that is a treasure trove of hand-written recipes, on pieces of paper, that she has collected over the years. Today, the box has rusted around the edges, the paper has yellowed and the ink might have faded but the recipes, a mix of the traditional and the contemporary, remain timeless!!
This dessert is not for the purists but for the busy, time-strapped mother who wants to make a post-dinner sweet treat for the kids. This recipe is a mix of milk, cocoa, custard powder and sugar that is heated and then set with gelatine. Poured into moulds and then inverted and revealed right in front of the child, it has the makings of a winner that will remain embedded in your memory forever!! Look at the photograph of the stained and torn paper of this recipe and you'll get an idea of how popular it was at home!
So, after all these years, what's the verdict on the dessert. Well... it ticks all the boxes of a kiddie dessert.. it is sweet, chocolaty and milky, shiny with a slight wobble and most importantly, has an adult-sounding fancy-schmansy name!!!
While it is just as how I remember it, my adult palate does notice two things about the dessert that a child could not care about. Firstly, do keep in mind that the flavour of the cocoa powder that you use will come across very clearly. And secondly, what I really appreciated this time was that this is a very light dessert.. honestly, it was almost like having chocolate milk, albeit set with gelatine!!
If you have children around or are looking for a dessert that evokes the basic flavours and tastes of childhood, do give this dessert a shot. This is after all a simple, basic, fuss-free, uncomplicated, clean, comforting dessert....pretty much like childhood itself, I'd say!!
makes 4 medium-sized individual ramekins (but also depends on the size of your ramekins)
- 2 cups milk
- 1 heaped tablespoon cocoa powder
- 2 1/2 tablespoon custard powder
- 6 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon gelatine powder
- 1/2 cup cold water
- Sprinkle the gelatine powder over the cold water and let it rest for five minutes.
- Mix cocoa, sugar and custard powder into a smooth paste with some of the milk in a saucepan.
- Add the rest of the milk to the paste, stirring well and bring the mixture in the saucepan to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue stirring until the paste thickens and coats the back of a spoon.
- Add the vanilla extract.
- Add the gelatine, soaked in the cold water, to the hot mixture and stir well until the gelatine has been dissolved completely.
- Pour and divide the mixture equally between the ramekins ( I used fluted aluminium moulds).
- Refrigerate until set.
- When ready to serve, run a knife along the top edge of the set dessert. Then, dip the moulds for 5 seconds in hot water and overturn them onto a plate to unmould the dessert.