Friday, 27 September 2013

Lime Sponge Pudding

It's been a while since I walked around my mother's garden. If summer was all about survival for the garden and the plants, the rains have been about revival and rejuvenation. All the plants are looking healthy, vibrant and according to Ma, "in desperate need of pruning!!". Except for the hibiscus, the flowers will come later on, in our tropical winter. Right now, it's her fruit trees (there's pomegranate, guavas, chikoo, amla) that are blooming!!
And right beside them, I noticed a lime tree. More of a shrub and less of a tree, as of now. But, it had quite a few limes hanging about that just called out to me. To have access to such fresh produce and ignore it, would be sheer idiocy.

Work with fresh produce and you should be ready for surprises. Not for them is the uniform blandness of supermarket produce. And true to form, these limes did not disappoint. I cut one open and blinked...and then blinked some more!! The inside of the lime was not light green as expected but orange!! To say that I was flummoxed would be an understatement. When in doubt, turn to Google, who very competently informed me that these were Kassia limes. Whatever they are, my kitchen was smelling all things citrusy!!

These limes are from Ma's garden and so, it is natural that she gets to decide what I make with them. Without a moment's hesitation, she declared that I make a self-saucing sponge pudding. She had fond memories of it from her days when she was newly married. A school friend of hers, who had also moved to Bombay post-marriage, used to make this pudding as her signature dessert. Ma promptly fell in love with it and promised herself that she would try and recreate it. But, life got in the way, until her daughter became a food blogger and decided to give it a go.

For the recipe, I turned to the ever reliable 'Joy of Baking'. I have used limes but feel free to use lemons or even, oranges. The final product results in two layers. The top layer is a tender, sponge layer that gives way to this delightfully, tangy lime sauce. And since it is baked in a water bath, the sponge layer has a texture of a steamed pudding.

One bite of this dessert and you know who is the star. This is not a dessert if you don't enjoy all things citrus. It will refresh, tingle and awaken your taste buds as only limes and lemons can. The zesty sauce at the bottom is what makes this dessert special. Ma gave it her stamp of approval and I can't recommend it enough to all the citrus-lovers out there!!

Warm and straight out of the oven, it will remind you of gentle sunshine on a spring morning. Chilled in the refrigerator (and that's how I personally prefer it), it will remind you of sunshine on a cold, wintry morning. Either way, it will bring a spring in your step!!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Espresso Profiteroles

It's been a while since I baked and posted along with the 'TWD : Baking with Julia' group. I can list a number of excuses for my absence but frankly, procrastination, as it usually does, got the better of me. But, this month's choice of espresso profiteroles got me back in the groove.
I'll admit it ... I am completely taken in with the French style of baking.  Right from the quaint names to the drama (almost always) involved in the technique to the flair in the presentation and finally, to the superlative taste.. I am hopelessly sold!! It's a different matter that with my clumsy fingers, I doubt I'll ever achieve their level of finesse. But, a girl can always dream!!

Choux pastry or pâte à choux is a classic French pastry and has been on my 'to-do' list for a long time. At some point, everyone has had a profiterole or a cream puff as they are known in the States. It would have been a small, hollow pastry puff, filled with sweetened cream and chocolate sauce drizzled all over it.
This version from the book, is a espresso variation of the classic, filled with cinnamon ice cream and topped with a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce.
So, how did the choux pastry come together?? Surprisingly, it was quite easy to put together. I am always one to put practicality first and if something feels too technically tedious, I have no qualms of buying it from the market. But, the choux pastry was a pleasant surprise, as long as you followed the recipe's instructions. It is not one of those recipes that is tried once as an academic exercise and then conveniently forgotten. Neither is it time-consuming nor tedious, that is discounting all the vigorous stirring one's gotta do.

The final product is a lot darker than your regular profiteroles, owing to the espresso in the pastry. The recipe recommends filling them with ice-cream, a completely impractical option in hot and humid India. So, instead, I filled them with chocolate cream and gave them a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce. Another change I made was that instead of cutting them in half and filling them as the recipe suggests, I made a hole in the bottom and filled these puffs with cream.
The espresso hides any eggy taste that you might encounter as this recipe uses a fair share of eggs. You can get creative, and fill these with custard or crème patisserie or even, lemon curd. The pastry shells were light, hollow and smothered with all that chocolate goodness, there is not much you can dislike about them.

So, what does one do when faced with a platter full of profiteroles that have chocolate sauce seductively drizzled all over them.. you simply give in!! Wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said, "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it!!"

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Chocolate Cashew Fudge

Every once in a while, I pause and look back at all the posts I've done till now. I've said it before, but it always amazes me how I, who had never opened a recipe book till some time back, today, write a food blog. Yes, sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction.

So, today I take you back to one of the recipes that started it all. It was a few years back when I happened to catch Nigella Lawson for the first time on TV. With all her coquettish charm, she would make this fudge and it looked so easy that it convinced me, the kitchen ignoramus, to give it a shot. Such was the success of this recipe back then, that it compelled my sister to buy me my first cookery book. It would be "Nigella Express" with the words, "Now, no more excuses... happy cooking!!"
Last week, I got a chance to revisit this recipe for a dear friend's daughter's birthday. This recipe cannot get easier. You need to bash the nuts with a rolling pin and then melt the condensed milk along with the chocolate and leave to set. 10 minutes of your time and you will have a batch of chocolate fudge that can never go wrong!
The fudge is chewy, chocolaty, rich and a small piece goes a long way. The nuts are a welcome visual and textural contrast. The nuts can be of your choice or you can get creative and use a combination of nuts and dried fruits.
But, the best compliment this recipe got was from the young ladies, for whom it was intended. I am told they don't eat nuts but when it came to this fudge, there wasn't even a murmur of disapproval. Even better, according to the mother, my cooking skills were given a '5-star' rating!! Need I say more?!??

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